Much has already been said and many words written about the Grade 1 Elizabethan Luxury Country House Hotel that is Combe House Hotel & Restaurant in Gittisham, Honiton, Devon. How delighted we were to discover at first hand that it lived up to all expectations. The wonderful country setting was lovely and provided the perfect backdrop for an all too brief visit.
On arrival we were welcomed by Rachel’s bubbly personality and courteous smile who informed us that we were expected by our hosts Ken and Ruth. This was a good sign which augured well. Imagine our delight when a glass of champagne and a tray of canapés arrived as a precursor to luncheon. We were escorted to ‘The Pink Room’, one of three intimate dining rooms decorated with chandeliers and hand-painted mural walls. Here we sat at our table in the bay window and looked out over the grounds where Arabian horses grazed in the fields and pheasants strolled across the lawns. It was a truly wonderful setting.
Head Chef Hadleigh Barrett and Sous Chef Stuart Brown (both Master Chefs of Great Britain) provided a meal fit for royalty. Our choices from the luncheon menu included (Appetiser) pea veloute; (1st Course) rabbit confit and truffle terrine, foie gras mousse, pickled vegetables; smoked salmon kedgeree, hot smoked salmon, lightly curried risotto fritter, parsley oil; (2nd Course) lamb, roast leg with herb crust, braised neck fillet, gratin potato, pea puree. We did not avail ourselves of the 3rd Course but had we done so we would have chosen blood orange sable, blood orange sorbet; mascarpone and amaretto mousse, chocolate sorbet. The food was perfectly cooked, beautifully prepared and presented, and tasted delicious. Feeling suitably replete, we retired to the sitting room to enjoy coffee and petit fours. The entire culinary experience was an absolute delight and thoroughly enjoyable.
Our hosts Ken and Ruth very kindly took us on a whistle-stop tour of Combe House. All rooms are ensuite and have recently been refurbished to a very high standard. We fell in love with the Signature Suites; Combe Thatch Cottage and secluded Walled Garden, The Linen Suite and Tommy Wax.
Walking through the grounds, we met Head Gardener, Charlie O’Reilly who was clearly passionate about his responsibilities and gladly related how the carefully nurtured grounds, gardens and croquet lawn had evolved during the past decades under his tenure in office. It was comforting to learn that the restaurant’s vegetable requirements are met on a seasonal basis directly from the kitchen garden.
Combe House in Gittisham, Devon is furnished with understated elegance and exudes an airy and magical atmosphere of times gone by. It is a wonderfully, friendly place where the professionalism of staff at all levels and attention to detail are exemplars which makes it feel more like a home than a hotel. We hope to return very soon to sample some more of the excellent hospitality.
Our heartiest congratulations and best wishes to the owners Ken and Ruth for looking after us so well and for making our visit so memorable.
Angela & Brian Swinyard
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