FOOD REVIEW: Two little piggies went for dinner at The Pig at Combe hotel
PUBLISHED: 11:50 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:37 13 June 2019
As part of a series of reviews at East Devon eateries, reporter Callum Lawton and his colleague, James Davey, ventured to the grand The Pig - at Combe Hotel in Gittisham.
This stunning country home, nestled in more than 3,000 acres of verdant countryside, is keen to break the chains of its former namesake - Combe House Hotel.
Chris Charles, hotel manager, says the Pig wants to ensure it is open to all.
He adds: "That is reflected in the way the staff have been encouraged to act - you see them wearing converse for example, it's a more informal way of working.
"If the staff are relaxed, it makes the guests relaxed."
The Pig at Combe offers a scrumptious array of food courtesy of its 'Plot to Plate' and '25 mile' menus, both bursting with fresh, local ingredients.
The fare is also enhanced by the vast arsenal of fresh produce the Pig grows in its own gardens.
Chris says: "We have introduced this Plot to Plate lunch menu to encourage people who may not have known about us before to give us a try.
"We are trying to make the hotel more accessible for the local clientele.
"The Pig at Combe is an amazing place to come and spend time at - you can just get lost here."
The Pig is just a 10 minute drive from Honiton's town centre, and is accessible via the A30 or Gittisham village.
Before we sat down in the main restaurant, we were treated to a platter of 'Piggy Bits' in one of the hotel's comfortable lounges.
The board smacked of English country house fare - sumptuous hock eggs with a lashing of peppery mustard, delicate sausage rolls resting on a thick bed of black garlic mayo and smooth and mellow fishcakes generously drizzled with zingy lemon mayo.
Each bit was enhanced by a small foray of perfectly home-pickled vegetables, bursting with sweetness and the deftest acidic hint.
These perfect miniature palate cleansers bridged the flavours between each piggy bit - every bite was a fresh experience.
To finish, we tucked into some rich, buttery cheese straws, accompanied by zesty basil leaves plucked from the Pig garden.
Satisfied, but no by no means full, we were led into the Pig's sprawling main restaurant.
Having not ordered starters, we were surprised when restaurant manageress Kerri brought out a dish of hand-dived Lyme Bay scallops, accompanied by artichoke, lemon sauce and chervil (known as French parsley).
"Not a mistake", she assured us, but an offer to try what the Pig kitchen could cook up.
We would be in for a treat - soft, buttery scallops which were pan-seared to perfection. Browned, but tender enough to be sliced in half with a butter knife.
Combined with the savoury artichoke, which left a dazzle of aniseed on the palate (I later enquired with Kerri, who confirmed it had been rolled in star-anise), and the zing of lemon sauce, the dish threw punches of flavour left, right and centre.
Light briny notes cascaded on the tongue, trading blows with deep, aromatic hints of the artichoke and citrusy burst of the lemon sauce.
A knock-out dish, but we were only just beginning!
For mains, we ordered the Westcountry 28 day-aged steak 8oz sirloin steak (medium rare), and char-grilled lamb leg steak with tomatoes and charred spring onions.
We also ordered a side of tobacco onions.
The steak was shimmering with juices, criss-crossed with dark, smoky char marks and topped with a generous scoop of herby butter.
The salad it was served with was a surprise - after chomping down on two formidably-sized leaves, they exploded with a huge burst of peppery freshness which nearly took our breath away.
The fluffy triple cooked chips were good, but the onions were the star of the sides - crunchy, smoky, fiercely orange and incredibly more-ish.
The lamb main was a colourful dish, with tender strips of perfectly-cooked meat swimming in a melodic river of meat and tomato juices.
The tomatoes were ripe, juicy and flavourful - providing a much-needed palate cleanser.
The lamb dish was paired with red wine (grape variety Aglianico, region Taurasi), hand-picked by Matthew, one of the Pig's sommeliers.
By the end of the meals, we were comfortably full, with our heads swimming in the rich flavours left lingering on the palate.
For dessert, we challenged Kerri to bring us a blind option, as we were spoilt for choice.
She came up trumps, selecting a delightfully light gin jelly, accompanied by lip-puckering, zingy lime and cardamom sorbet freshened by herbs from the Pig gardens.
This dessert split opinion, for me it was too 'zingy', and, not being a huge gin lover, only served as a welcome palate cleanser above all.
For James however, it was the perfect dessert.
After eating so much rich food, dessert wasn't even an option for him - but this pud revitalised him and woke him from his food-induced stupor.
It's one you'll have to try should you get the opportunity!
You can view the menus The Pig at Combe offers here.