I must confess that I am so partial to a holiday abroad that I often ignore the option to travel to the English countryside. This all changed after my trip to the beautiful Cary Arms & Spa in Babbacombe Bay this time last year, where I was stunned with the potential of the English Riviera. Read all about this trip here. My appreciation for British beauty has only been reinforced since then and I couldn’t wait to experience another part of Devon to celebrate my beautiful sister and brother in law’s wedding.
Our base was the beautiful Luggs Barn in Devon, a picturesque cottage with exposed brick walls, impressive grounds and unspoiled views of the rolling hills for miles. Our three canine companions were in their element while us human folk soaked up the sun in the heatwave bliss.
On our last night in Devon, which coincided with the World Cup England v Colombia match, we headed to The Pig Hotel at Combe for an unforgettable dinner. As footie fans, we pushed back the reservation to 9.30pm, hoping that the match would be well and truly ours by that time. What followed was Colombia equalising the minute before we hopped into the cab, listening to extra time on the radio and facing the penalties via our phones in the restaurant along with three other tables. While the Pig is certainly a luxury hotel, it didn’t shy away from this revelry but rather supported our jubilant applause when England won on penalties, a rarity in British football.
The Pig at Combe is set back from the road in Honiton, with a driveway through its majestic grounds giving you a peek at the Elizabethan manor house from a distance. The hotel makes use of its 3,500 acres by growing the majority of its produce organically on site. The Pig prides itself on its support for local produce, with everything sourced from either their kitchen garden or within a 25-mile radius, making it all the more special. The hotel’s appreciation for the outdoors has sparked inspiration for its interior design, with the dining rooms doubling up as neatly kept allotments. Herb plants grace each table while walls are decorated with climbing foliage and butterfly displays.
The restaurant’s décor is best described as rustic chic, or what the hoteliers have termed ‘derelict chic’, an aesthetic that effortlessly blends barn-style interiors with elegant chandelier fittings. The wooden floors, distressed walls and restored antiques bring a slice of history to the boutique hotel and create a laidback atmosphere in an otherwise formal setting. The Pig lives up to its name, with taxidermy boars lining the walls and luxury bathrooms reflecting the theme in their tiled flooring, dividing cubicles into sows and boars.
The restaurant highlights the origins of its fresh produce in a beautifully illustrated map of the locality while the à la carte mirrors this, with a section dedicated to ‘mostly picked this morning’ from the boutique hotel’s garden and greenhouse. The rest of the menu is plentiful, with starters doubling up as mains (priced up of course) and small pig, fish and garden plates. All but one of us chose the perfectly seared Jurassic Coast Scallops which arrived in a smoked seaweed stock with home cured lardons. Presented in their decorative shell – a perfect dipping bowl for the crusty homemade bread – the scallops brought seaside vibes to the manor house.
Thrice cooked chips quickly found their way to our table in flowerpots, befriending the centrepiece sage plant. The ‘Karen of Ladram’ Hake was refreshing, with a generous serving of watercress sauce and succulent broad beans. The Plaice with Roasted Fennel also hit the spot, with a Pepper Dulse Butter Sauce. The meat-eaters among us were silenced by their enjoyment of the tender Westcountry 28 Days Aged Sirloin Steak and chunky Lamb Leg Pappardelle.
Desserts were just as impressive, with lighter puds such as the Cheddar Strawberries perfectly refreshing thanks to the zingy Lemon Basil Ice Cream. The Pig makes the most of its herb garden, with a rich Mint Chocolate Tart and Warm Almond Sponge with Garden Herb Ice Cream also featuring on the menu. The delicate presentation of the puddings reflected the elegance of the quaint china tableware upon which they arrived.
After dinner, we took a tour of the plush hotel, taking in its period lounge & bar area followed by a visit to its private dining room, the Georgian Kitchen, which transports guests back in time with its original fittings – expect copper pots aplenty and a grand stove. It’s safe to say that it won’t be long before we’re back at The Pig to get a taste of these other gems (did we mention they also have a spa?).