The Pig at Combe

Near Honiton, Devon, United Kingdom Book from £145

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
Stunning new hotel and restaurant in the east Devon countryside. Imaginative food, incredible style
This is a celebration of old meets new. A Grade 1-listed Elizabethan manor house re-imagined as a shabby-chic hotel. A grand entrance hall that's now home to a relaxed bar area with a crackling fire, imaginative cocktail infusions and a wall of mismatched glasses. Faux-antique mirrors hiding smart TVs. Roll-top baths paired with waffle dressing gowns. Original panelling and stucco ceilings alongside terracotta pots of herbs. A former potting shed offering hot-stone massages. And the biggest luxury, that spans both eras? Being thoroughly looked after.

Formerly Combe House, this is the latest brainchild from Robin Hutson, joining The Pig and The Pig near Bath, 2 of our favourite hotels. As with those, each revamp detail here was dreamt up by Judy, Robin's wife - antique furniture sourced from French brocantes, paired with rose-red sofas and muted hues of sage and grey. Though there are trademark Pig details (vintage crockery on bare wood tables in the conservatory-feel restaurant; an incredible kitchen garden, whose produce drives the daily menu), nothing has been duplicated exactly; everything is original and extraordinary. As for the setting, it's as beautiful as could be. Arabian horses gallop around the surrounding fields, which unfold into 3,500 acres of fresh green Devon countryside. Pure rejuvenation for the soul.

Highs

  • The ambiance: calm slips over you the moment you arrive
  • Superb gastro food: pollock lollipops with salsa verde, glazed Featherblade steak, then a gin jelly softened by cucumber sorbet
  • Staff couldn't be friendlier - and they're totally on their game
  • Bikes and Hunter wellies for exploring the countryside - or drive to beaches and historic towns
  • Clever pricing, which offers something for everyone. There are luxury Hideaways and champagne cocktails, or Cheap & Cheerful rooms and a garden pizzeria

Lows

  • Breakfast isn't included in the rates but it's affordable and generous
  • A 2-night minimum stay over Friday and Saturday nights (and you'll need to book weekends well in advance)
  • We got too hot at night so needed to sleep with the window open (but then had a gorgeous cooling breeze, so ultimately a win)
  • Other restaurants are a drive away
  • No swimming pool, the icing on the cake (do I sound spoilt?)

Best time to go

Come in spring for bluebell walks in the surrounding woods; in summer for lazy days on the lawn and nearby beaches; in autumn for stunning hues across the trees and up on Dartmoor; in winter for fire-lit evenings in the bar and sitting rooms.

Our top tips

Taste herbs in the Kitchen Garden. There are 7 different types of mint alone, including banana mint and chocolate mint, both of which taste astonishingly like their namesake.

The local village Gittisham is enchanting, dating back further than the Doomsday book, with a Norman church, original lynch gate and ancient burial mounds. Its 85 dwellings are mostly thatched, with tiny windows and cob walls.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 27
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 27 rooms are some of the most beautiful we've seen, with painstaking attention to detail. Those at the front have vast mullioned windows framing countryside views; our Big Comfy Luxe was one such room and perfectly named. The four-poster bed was deeply comfortable; the metro-tiled monsoon shower offered an ideal level of pummelling; and I loved lazing in the roll-top bath, watching the sun set and trying the fragrant Bramley products. Our duvet was too thick for summer, but once we'd opened the windows we slept brilliantly.

Regardless of size, all rooms have the same treats: Nespressos, fresh milk, Roberts radios, waffle dressing gowns, magazines (Stylist and Private Eye - a welcome change from the usual suspects). Hidden larders house posh popcorn and local ales.

If price is no object, the Hideaways are gorgeous: Laundry, with an oversized round copper bathtub and antique drying rack; Horsebox, a brilliantly conceived restoration of 'stalls' into little areas (bedroom, double sink area, lounge and so on). If you're here on a budget, the Cheap & Cheerful and Snug rooms offer great value for money.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Nespresso
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The kitchen gardens with their Victorian greenhouses are the heart of the hotel, tended by 5 full-time gardeners. Menus are driven by what's perfect for plucking, and this commitment shines through everything you eat.

The informal Garden Restaurant is flooded with light and interesting detail: taxidermy butterfly collections, Kilner jars of colourful plant infusions, terracotta pots bursting with fragrant herbs. You can also dine on the terrace, looking over the valley.

Our dinner was full of flavour. Edible flowers added beauty to each plate, and even bread was elevated to the special, baked in house and served with sage-infused olive oil and sea salt. The brill carpaccio was attractively layered with capers, poppy seeds and radishes, though too subtle in taste, but the beetroot and watercress risotto was deliciously fresh, with bursts of rainbow-red and white. The glazed Featherblade was incredible: rich, deep, and offset perfectly by a herby potato salad and celery leaves.

But it was dessert that blew us away: a tasting platter of lemon-balm strawberries, honey and lavender set cream with raspberry sorbet, a triple-mint chocolate tart and gin jelly with cucumber sorbet, all paired with dessert wines. The sommeliers couldn't be more helpful, or the wines more delicious.

Breakfast was equally imaginative, the buffet including orange honey, plum compote to adorn creamy yoghurt, and poached pears with a hint of ginger. We loved our avocado and poached eggs on sourdough, and sneaked out granola squares for the drive home. If you just want something simple (a bacon sandwich, pastries, eggs on toast), there's a 'Smaller' menu.

Don't miss the Garden Folly for flatbread lunches or an easy pizza supper; a semi-restored old folly (derelict chic!) with a wood-fired oven and indoor/outdoor bar.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Borrow a pair of Hunters to explore the estate: discover the lost arboretum, follow the River Gitt, and enjoy sea mists rolling through the valley
  • Treat yourself to a bespoke facial or massage in the Potting Shed
  • Further afield, find fossils on the Jurassic Coast and visit The Cobb at Lyme Regis (a dramatic sea wall featured in The French Lieutenant’s Woman)
  • There are brilliant beaches 30 minutes away, including Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth and family-friendly Dawlish Warren. Most have watersports on offer
  • Dartmoor is one of England’s most hauntingly beautiful landscapes; take hiking boots and ask reception to recommend a walking route with a pub for lunch
  • There are 9 golf courses close by; the hotel can arrange fishing trips and horse riding, too
  • The fishing village of Beer has pretty arts and crafts shops, and a number of quaint cafés
  • Visit Topsham for Dart's Farm Shop, full of delicious local produce
  • Historic Exeter is 25 minutes away; we love its Gothic cathedral and 900-year-old priory (St Nicholas) with Tudor interiors
  • Back at Combe, take time to wander around the remarkable kitchen gardens, through mature orchards and Victorian greenhouses, and past the quail run (just for producing eggs)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Well being

Kids

Families are welcome and though there are no special facilities for kids, they will enjoy roaming the estate. The atmosphere is very relaxed.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The family suites each have 2 bedrooms (1 kingsize, 1 with bunkbeds), 2 bathrooms (1 shower, 1 tub) and space for a baby cot. All other rooms, except the Cheap & Cheerful and Snug categories, can fit a baby cot or rollaway bed.

Babysitting:

On request

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

A kids' menu (sausage and mash, free-range chicken and chips, apple jelly and ice cream), plus pizzas in the Garden Folly

Kids Activities on site:

A big swing in the garden and bikes to borrow

Kids Activities nearby:

Beaches and historic towns

Families Should Know:

Baby monitors probably won't reach from your room to the restaurant

Distances:

  • Airport: 25-minute drive (Exeter)
  • Hospital: 25-minute drive (Exeter)
  • Shops: 5-minute drive (Honiton)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for The Pig at Combe