Private Dining at the Pig
Check out the private dining options on offer at the newest addition to the Pig litter, at Combe.
Pig by name, pig by nature. It seems that me and the Pig at Combe have something in common. I was recently invited along to a special foodie evening at the latest addition to the laid-back luxury hotel brand, where I got the chance to have a look at all of the dining options available for groups and, literally ‘pig out’. Sorry fellow diners, I never really got on board with the sharing ethos….
The Pig Portfolio already gets my vote for its gorgeous hotels, most of which are out in the sticks in beautiful, quirky old country houses. The Devon addition near Gittisham in the east of the county is no exception, located at the end of a long, sweeping drive, twinkling on a cold winters night. Yes, it’s a true country retreat, but it’s worth knowing that, whether you’re booked in for the night or simply looking for somewhere to gather for a meal, it’s worth making the journey for the food alone.
You’re not limited to the formality of a restaurant here; if you wanted something a little different and exclusive, you have options, all of which I scoped out.
First up, down an ancient stone staircase to an atmospheric, candlelit cellar, decorated with bottles of plonk. Its hidden away location makes it a brilliantly cosy and quirky space for a small event, where you might want drinks and canapés. Speaking of which, this is where my epic evening of eating began. Out came platters of Piggy Treats, a selection of bitesize nibbles just like the kind you’d order to snack on if you came for drinks in the lounge. As you might expect, there’s plenty of pig action on the menu, from mini scotch eggs, to perfectly crispy crackling served up with apple sauce. Basically, right up my street and, basically, I didn’t pace myself.
The Georgian Kitchen
Next, to the main event in the Georgian Kitchen, the hotel’s private dining room, beautifully decorated and laid out just like the heart of a Georgian country house. An enormous range sits at one end and, right in the centre is a large, traditional kitchen table that can comfortably seat up to 14. It’s informal and relaxed and very apt for the style of food that is served up here.
Piggy fans will know that the hotel’s menu relies largely on its kitchen gardens. Here there are three walled gardens full of veggies and herbs, but there is an emphasis placed on the hotel’s proximity both to coast and country, too. So the fish is landed just eight miles away, and there are some superb joints of meat locally reared from butchers around Honiton. And what isn’t grown in the garden is never sourced from anywhere further than a twenty-five mile radius.
So out came our feast: Plate after plate of lamb joints, chicken, fish and vegetables were dished up, for carving and sharing around the table. It was one of those meals that immediately connects you to the rest of the table, as you all delve in, losing all airs and graces, adding to the informality that reigns at the Pig hotels. Oh, they do it so well.
The presentation of the food itself had the wow factor, although I found myself eyeballing an enormous head and shoulders of hake for most of the evening.
When I realised I didn’t stand a chance of winning the ‘who blinks first’ competition with the hake, I tucked in to the selection before me: Lewis’ slow roast & braised ‘White Face’ Dartmoor lamb; Hay smoked & BBQ ‘Pipers Farm’ chicken; James Golding’s home smoked organic Wester Ross salmon; and that hake with foraged sea veg. All served with glasshouse leaves & foraged herbs, garden greens and roast celeriac & lemon thyme.
It was deliciously different for me, having eaten dishes that I wouldn’t automatically have gone for on a restaurant menu.
Most of our party were defeated by the feast, but it’s amazing how one finds the appetite when a sharing board of puddings lands on the table.
Here the theme was on comfort food, with modern takes on traditional classics like rice pudding. Blighted by an annoyingly sweet tooth, I loved it.
But that wasn’t the end.
To round off the evening, we were taken outside and across to the Folly for coffee and ‘Piggy Fours’, homemade marshmallows, fudge and chocolates. Again, amazing how quickly my fullness subsides in these situations.
The folly is being described by the hotel as ‘semi-restored’ and ‘derelict chic’ (there’s a descriptive for everything, isn’t there?!) but that’s exactly what it is; it feels as though you have half a foot indoors and half outdoors, with rustic benches, wood-fired pizza oven and bar. I have a feeling this space will really come into its own now that the lighter evenings are here. It’s another private dining option for larger parties of up to 22 and maintains a sense of informality.
So, fat and full, this little piggy* loved the three different dining options available and highly rates the food; all without even stepping foot in the main restaurant (which looked lovely, by the way).
(*And while there may not have been roast beef on this occasion, having hastily jumped in the car it was my poor bladder that cried ‘wee, wee, wee! all the way home’. Until I stopped at a petrol station.)
The Pig at Combe, Gittisham, Honiton, Devon, EX14 3AD. Tel 01404 540400, thepighotel.com