A weekend at The Pig: there certainly could be worse ways to spend my ten year wedding anniversary… Namely with our three children, who were promptly tipped out at Granny’s and left spluttering dust from my wheel-spin as we pointed the car toward the West Country and sped off.
What to do with a precious gift of two nights away on our own? If you’re obsessively Googling ‘Boutique Country Hotel’ you’ll keep bumping up against The Pig. That’s partly because there are now quite a lot of them (a litter of seven and counting), but also down to the fact that they get consistently garner rave reviews; lots of wow factor, yet relatively affordable. We decided to check out The Pig In Combe. We weren’t disappointed.
Arriving during one of those charmed weekends of non-stop blue sky that feels like a distant memory right now, the location would have been equally enticing had we turned up in the driving rain. The grandeur is unmistakable, you can’t help but feel like aristocracy for the day, driving up the long drive to our own stately home.
It didn’t matter that we were in a beaten up family car, the parking is cunningly hidden behind trees to spare blushes (or to encourage humility, given the Range Rovers and Porches lined up alongside our ageing people carrier, just out of view).
It didn’t matter that we were in a beaten up family car, the parking is cunningly hidden behind trees to spare blushes...
Immediately upon entering the hotel’s portico, the staff were falling over themselves to welcome us like modern day Jeeves in Converse. Their dress code (smart pink shirt with jeans and ‘sneakers’) gave off the subliminal unsnobbish ethos of the whole setup: we will treat you like royalty whoever you are.
Shown to our room(s!), the late summer sun created a dappled light show through mansion’s Elizabethan windows onto the super-king four-poster. Past the bed we could see through into the bathroom with a roll-top bath, his and hers basins alongside each other, and a walk-in monsoon shower complete with Bramley toiletries.
Tthe staff were falling over themselves to welcome us like modern day Jeeves in Converse...
The loo was in a separate little room, presumably positioned outside the bathroom to preserve the sanctity of the roll top bath experience for whichever partner didn’t order the dodgy TexMex at Heston Services on the way down.
A couple of glasses of delicious ‘English Fizz’ and some ‘Piggy Fours’ greeted us before my wife was ushered away for her pre-booked massage in a ‘Potting Shed’ – not cheap, but totally worth it because of the genuine personal care and attention.
Wandering the stunning grounds through the walled kitchen garden was a delight to the senses, made all the more meaningful as we sampled the walled garden’s produce at dinner. Served by Josh, we received top-notch advice on a meal that was a cut above our usual gastro pub tastes!
I can absolutely recommend the Monkfish Tails with Fish Consommé and the Lamb with Tarragon Broth – both amazing. I’m so glad we managed to squeeze in pudding because the flavours of the Mexican Marigold Posset produced one of the best memories of the weekend. We certainly don’t eat like this at home…
…But we can drink like this. Clever hack, if you enjoy The Pig’s house red, heavily promoted by the restaurant at £35 a bottle, you can buy a near-identical M Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone for £5 a bottle at Tesco.
After a long and comfortable night, breakfast was welcome and fantastic – a huge spread of cereals, fruits, cheeses, pastries and cooked options in The Pig’s gorgeous airy dining rooms. We were in no rush to get away either morning of our stay, but the Devon coast was too close not to explore. And following a quick swim we had a most charming and delicious anniversary lunch in Exmouth at Saveur, a family restaurant and a hidden gem – highly recommended.
We were so glad of a second night back at The Pig to round off our trip and refresh us ready to remind ourselves we’re parents with real life responsibilities.