Relaxed, unpretentious and reassuringly uncomplicated, The Pig at Combe makes a solid case for sticking to simplicity.
While head chef Daniel Gavriilidis's background might be in Michelin started kitchens, his approach now is much more down to earth (if just as artful). Proving that sometimes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, the menu here deals in clean, classic flavours and it’s these that are sometimes harder to get right. There’s nothing to hide behind.
A snacking board shared fireside in one of the lounges heros buttery sausage roll slices and rich taramaslata cut with pickled red onions. Starters from the on-site garden sing of the seasons and let the produce do the talking. Bowls of colourful tomatoes and punchy purple basil as well as charred courgette slices - allowed to retain their bite - served with a herby, sesame spiked dressing both offered a rare feeling for restaurant food - nourishment.
Throughout the menu there’s an equal split between veggie, fish and meat plates that helps guests build a meal that is balanced over the course of the evening. Our main was a standout slab of beef - a bone-in rib - served sliced for easy family-style sharing and presented on piles of garden spoils and buckets of triple cooked chips (which the staff were sensible enough to ask whether we wanted instead of the billed new potatoes). Steamed cabbage, roasted sweet carrots, charred cauliflower and crunchy peas and beans made each bite different, and the accompanying peppercorn sauce was spiked with alcohol, rich with beef stock and one of the best we’ve had anywhere across the country.
The service was slow at times because of the packed dining room, but despite delays everything was delivered with energy and enthusiasm from joyful staff who upheld a five star attitude despite rallying against the sheer quantity of diners August throws Devon’s way.
The space itself is a warm, wood panelled dining room decorated with quirky artworks, potted plants and jars of homemade pickles and preserves - part larder part greenhouse. The mixed crowd of families, friend groups and couples keeps the atmosphere buoyant and with a local selection of beers and wines plus homemade softs, there’s no reason to rush.