Fine wine, fresh food and friendly staff: Richard Esling, November 17

Particularly at this time of year, recipes are foremost in our minds.

The lounge bar at The Pig at Combe
The lounge bar at The Pig at Combe

Entertaining for friends or family in the festive season often calls for something special, either from your favourite recipe book, or well-known tried and tested dishes committed to memory.

Another form of recipe applies to the hospitality industry, where a combination of factors can result in a mediocre experience, or one which you will remember forever. The Pig group of restaurants with rooms, seems to have honed their recipe to perfection, creating an atmosphere of pure relaxation, be it for a weekday lunch or a short stay in one of their comfortable rooms.

In Sussex, we are lucky to have the latest member of the Pig litter opened in September at Madehurst, near Arundel. Other Pigs though are within easy distances and perfect for a relaxing stay with fine wines and fresh food from the kitchen garden, with most items sourced from within a 25-mile radius of each restaurant. An opportunity to explore a different region from an establishment where you are treated more like a family member house guest than an anonymous hotel visitor.

The Pig at Combe is located near the little village of Gittisham, set in the rolling countryside of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Accessed by a mile long private driveway through the estate, the building is a magnificent Grade 1 listed Elizabethan Manor House, complete with an old orangery, walled kitchen gardens, outbuildings and majestic, giant cedar trees. Easily accessible from the A30 at Honiton, or from the coast road after the M27, it is only 3 to 4 hours to a haven of peace in south-west England.

With the established Pig wine list of over 200 different wines, The Pig at Combe is also fortunate enough to be able to store its wines in the extensive, original wine cellars, where around 2,500 bottles quietly mature. Various wine tasting events take place in normal times in the atmospheric cellar tasting room, under the guidance of Istvan, the experienced Hungarian head sommelier.

An ideal retreat at any time of year, the spacious restaurant spills out onto a stone terrace in warm weather, and for those colder days, large oak logs crackle in the impressive fireplace of the lounge bar with its high ceilings and wood panelling.

Steeped in history, a building is recorded on the site of The Pig at Combe as far back as 1086, owned by a half-brother of William the Conqueror. The manor house as it stands today was built in 1572 and changed from private residence to hotel in 1968. It came into the Pig fold in 2016 at which time it was renamed The Pig at Combe.

A stone’s throw (well 20-30 minutes by car) from such characterful seaside towns and villages as Branscombe, Beer, Seaton and Budleigh Salterton, trips to discover the area abound. A brisk walk along the cliffs from Branscombe to Beer, or along the River Otter to Otterton to a watermill still operating after 1000 years, works up a good appetite for a delicious dinner and wines back at the Pig. Naturally, the following day’s breakfast has to be ‘The Full Pig Out’ to set you up for the next excursion!