Sunday Lunch at The Pig at Combe


I have lived for nearly 40 years in England. In that time I have seen restaurants come and go, chefs rise and fall, hotels open and shut. I admire the tenacity and hard work of the chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers who have survived trends and recessions, and of course the recent pandemic.

In that time also, I have not only improved my cooking skills but have been consolidating ideas of what and how I really like to eat. I like to eat food that can either be scaled up to feed the masses, or smaller portions which can be shared. I like communal dining because this is the way we ate when I was growing up in Malaysia.

Last weekend we visited my parents-in-law in Devon and as always, we have Sunday lunch out. This is so we don’t have to spend part of our 30 hours together preparing a labour intensive roast lunch.

We mostly go to The Jack In The Green, home to our favourite braised red cabbage (recipe at the end of this post). This weekend we went to The Pig at Combe because there were more vegetarian dishes for Junior 2, who had come along with us. It was also conveniently near Otter Garden Centre.

A Sunday roast lunch is the perfect opportunity to share a joint of meat and plenty of vegetables around the dining table. It is not always possible to do this in a restaurant but the idea is there, that this is a meal to be shared en famille. At The Pig we ordered our own main courses and then shared some starters and desserts. We dipped the lovely bread in a herb-infused oil and smoked salt.


Isle of Wight Tomatoes, Garden Sorrel, Crispy Capers and Basil Vinaigrette


‘Newhouse Farm’ Asparagus, ‘Buffalicious’ Mozzarella and Toasted Seeds


Chargrilled Garden Oyster Mushrooms with Broad Bean Leaf and Hazelnuts


Roast Pork with Yorkshire Pudding, Roast Potatoes and Vegetables…and the crunchiest pork crackling ever


Junior 2 had a Nut Wellington (Beef Wellington is beef encased in puff pastry)


Chocolate Mousse with Gorse Ice Cream (if you come across a patch of gorse, it smells like a Pina Colada)


A selection of ice creams which were not sweet at all, but also not very flavourful. I think you can’t always have everything!


My parents-in-law also had Fillet of Hake with Butterbeans, Bacon and Fish Cream, and Lemon Curd Tart with Strawberries. They belong to a generation who never take photos of what they eat, so I did not dare to reach over and take photos of those dishes.

Like most British restaurants there is a discretionary service charge (anything from 10% to 15% of the total food and drink bill) which I think is the most sensible way to reward service. I find it quite stressful with the American way where adding a sum for service is left up to you but don’t you dare give anything less than 20%. Why not simply take the hassle out and include it in the bill?

At the end of the meal we agreed that we would all quite happily dine there again.

The Pig has a link to one of my favourite hotels from the past i.e. Hotel Du Vin. We had stayed at the first HdV in Winchester, in January 1997, where their Head Chef was a very young James Martin. The owners were Robin Hutson and Gerard Basset. HdV was sold to Marylebone Warwick Balfour in 2004, then after expansion the chain was sold on 10 years later. I recently re-visited HdV in Winchester which brought back some nice memories. I am not sure if the other branches of HdV are any good.

Mr Basett sadly passed away in 2019. Mr Hutson is chairman Home Grown Hotels, owners of The Pig Hotels until they were sold a year ago (to the same group which bought HdV from MWB).

All this is my way of saying that we should enjoy what we have for the moment, because that moment passes by in an instant. Sometimes when a hotel chain expands, standards are maintained. Sometimes they are not, and we are left looking for something that no longer exists. Through all this I hope that by sharing meals together as a family we will still be happy wherever it is we dine.




The Pig at Combe, Gittisham, Honiton EX14 3AD. Telephone 01404 540400. Other Pig Hotels here.



The Pig: Tales and Recipes from the Kitchen Garden and Beyond by Robin Hutson, published by Mitchell Beazley, ISBN 978-1784725570

The Pig: 500 Miles of Food, Friends and Local Legends by Robin Hutson, published by Home Grown Hotels, ISBN 978-1399907422


Easter Sunday: The Lord is my Shepherd


Happy Easter! For Christians all over the world this is a joyous day as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, and a triumph of life over death.

On our drives over the Cotswolds I have been thinking about Psalm 23, as fields abound with grazing sheep. They look well fed, calm and contented, but upon approaching them (for a photo) I found that they scattered and ran away with no clue on direction. I think this is why they need a shepherd.

Like sheep, we too need a shepherd. When we are lost, scared, unsure of what the future holds or mistrusting of life in general, we have Jesus who said he is the Good Shepherd.



Today’s plan was to have a walk, eat lunch, visit a National Trust property and not do too much. In detail: Batsford Arboretum – The Howard Arms – Chastleton House – Hotel. Maybe some ice cream.

Being so busy these past few weeks, we mostly missed the cherry blossoms in London. We saw the stretch along Swiss Cottage (now quite famous) but had no time to visit Kew Gardens. The season is over all too soon so I was very happy to see the cherry blossoms in Batsford Arboretum, most of which are still in bud.



The estate of Batsford Park was inherited in 1886 by Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale. His interest in Japan and East Asia led to the planting and development of the garden in an Oriental style. Besides the cherry blossom trees, there are different types of bamboo and magnolia trees grown here.



After lunch we visited Chastleton House. The house is 0ver 400 years old and is in a Jacobean style, which means it was built in the time of King James VI and I. See here for an explanation on why he had two titles.


Front and back view of the house, although it is more than what I would call a ‘house’!


Chastleton House was owned for 400 years by the same family until it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1991. As the family fortune decreased and the cost of upkeep went up, the building, interior and furnishings of the house went into slow but steady decline. The National Trust made a decision to leave the house as it is, and to not restore it to how it was 400 years ago, to give visitors an idea of what it was like to live in the house. You will see original architectural features as well as things owned by the house’s last occupants.

Be prepared for some uncomfortable moments as parts of the house are really in a state of disrepair and there is even a layer of mould on the ceiling of the original basement kitchen. Walking around Chastleton, I told myself that a) it is better to live in a small house that can be managed more easily and b) I must do more decluttering and cleaning when I can.



The Juxon Bible was one of fifty commissioned by King Charles I in 1629 to be given to the Bishops and members of the senior clergy. William Juxon (1582 – 4 June 1663) was Bishop of London from 1633 to 1646 and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1660 until his death. The bible was passed from Bishop Juxon’s estate to the family at Chastleton in the 1700s after his descendants had to sell their estate.



Give us today our daily bread: the meals we had today…

Breakfast at the Hook restaurant (The Fish Hotel): toasted sourdough with poached eggs and avocado, lime, chilli and feta


Lunch was a traditional Sunday roast at The Howard Arms in Ilmington, where the vegetables were plentiful and served in bowls made by Winchcombe Pottery (see previous post)


Dinner of pizza at the Lounge (the Fish Hotel) where we caught up with the latest Spelling Bee


We did manage to sneak in some raspberry and pistachio gelato to share


The prediction is for the rain to return from tomorrow. We have had a very good run with the weather for the past three days. This has helped make our long weekend in the Cotswolds more enjoyable than it would have been if we had to do what we did in the rain. We return to London tomorrow, but hopefully not before seeing a little more of the Cotswolds before we leave.


The Cotswolds: Throughout the Ages


Another sunny day with blue skies. I am getting a bit blasé about wearing a padded coat. Instead, I wear a thick jumper and put on a scarf and light rain jacket to keep the worst of the chill at bay.

The plan today was to visit a pottery and two National Trust properties, one a 16th century manor house and the other an open space which reveals the foundations of a grand Roman villa built in the 4th century. In detail: Broadway – Snowshill Manor – Winchcombe Pottery – Chedworth Roman Villa. Somehow we managed to fit in some ice cream.

We started the day with a visit to Broadway, which I think is one of the liveliest and loveliest towns in the Cotswolds. There is evidence of settlements here dating from 5,000 years ago. It’s possibly best to start looking first into the past few hundred years, through the displays and exhibitions in the Broadway Museum.


Some of the buildings of Broadway


I wanted to revisit Snowshill Manor as I have been there only once or twice, around 25 years ago. The earliest surviving part of the Manor was built around 1550, during the Tudor period. It was later extended, and you can see the differences in stone and window design in the photo below. A bit more of the manor’s history can be found here.



At the entrance I spotted this letterbox with the motto Nisi Dominus Frustra. This was, in fact, my school motto. It was explained to us that the Latin words meant ‘without God all is in vain’. A more accurate meaning is ‘Except the Lord in vain’, which is a shortened version of Psalm 127 verses 1 and 2: Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.



Nothing quite prepares you for the eclectic and eccentric collection amassed by Charles Paget Wade. As I get older I try to regularly go through the stuff I have owned over the years, keeping just what is useful and needed. Not so Mr Wade, who basically collected anything and everything that had been discarded when it was replaced by something more modern or newly designed. It did not matter that the item was now obsolete or non-functional, the point was that nothing should perish (i.e. be thrown into the junkyard). Then he had the ingenious idea to leave it all to the National Trust, thus entertaining generations to come.


Some of the collected items displayed in different rooms throughout the Snowshill Manor. Nothing is labelled so it’s quite fun to work out what some of the items are and how old they might be, also its country of origin


View of the house from the garden (top) and the entrance to an inner garden (bottom)


When I was at university I often ate in Cranks, the wholefood shop, in Covent Garden. I enjoyed what I ate immensely as it was healthy and nutritious, but the pleasure was also about eating from the plates and bowls the food was served in. I never lost my love for this type of pottery serveware, and have looked out for similar pieces since. I now buy them from David Mellor Design, who carry many items of craft pottery.


Pottery pieces similar to that used in Cranks (top and middle) and pieces with a dark brown glaze (bottom)


It was a slightly longer drive to see the remains of Chedworth Roman Villa, parts of which were unearthed in the 19th century. The distance of course was much, much, greater for the Romans (or it could be another nation under Roman rule at the time) who came to this part of England in the 4th century. Read more about its history and discovery here.


Details from the floor mosaics


Pillars for the underfloor heating system which heated the villa (top) and the remains of the villa’s foundations (bottom)


In the afternoon we made another visit to Alfonso Gelateria (The Square, Stow-on-the-Wold) where the owner Lewis was paddling out different flavours of gelato as fast as he could. He told us that yesterday was the first day of serving gelato in this new location. It seems that we were at the right place at the right time.

From the Specials menu we had Lemon and Hibiscus, Peanut Butter and Chocolate, Mascarpone and Profiteroles and Dark Chocolate and Almond. I am already wondering if we can nip in to the shop again before we leave the Cotswolds.



Dinner was at The Ebrington Arms. The food was good but not memorably so, the lighting was a bit harsh and we came home with our clothes smelling of fat. Life outside my own kitchen can be a bit of a hit and miss affair, but it is these little experiences here and there that keep me motivated to cook better meals when I am at home.


The Cotswolds: From Burford to Broadway

St John the Baptist Church in Burford


When I was in Secondary School, there was a cheerful but serious girl in my class who once declared that ‘it always rains on Good Friday, wherever you are in the world, because this is the day that Jesus died on the cross’. This is the story of God coming to earth in the human form of Jesus for the sole purpose of taking on our individual and collective burden of sin. What the cross achieved was a reconciliation, for it takes such a sacrifice to restore the broken relationship between God and man.

For the past 40 years I have made it a point to check the weather on Good Friday to see if it rains. More often than not, here in England, there is some or a lot of rain in April.

But not today.

Today, we had one of the sunniest days in the past six months. This made for an excellent start to our weekend in the Cotswolds. The plan would be to drive up to Oxford, head west to Burford then drive north to Broadway where our hotel is located. In detail: Oxford – Aston Pottery and Gardens – Burford Garden Centre – Burford – Daylesford Organic – Stow-on-the-Wold – The Fish Hotel. Below are brief descriptions of each place we visited.


Besides hand-stencilled pottery, Aston Pottery and Gardens also sells a large range of gifts, with an on-site cafe


Burford Garden Centre is a stylish storehouse of everything you would need for your home and lifestyle, from furniture to furnishings, stationary to scarves. Its core business is still selling plants and everything associated with gardening. There is a beautiful bookshop next to the garden centre and a cafe on-site. I think this is a great place for family shopping.



Besides the beautiful church in Burford there were two very interesting shops in this lovely town. The first is the House of Mälu where you can commission your own bespoke leather holdall, from the same atelier that also makes leather bags for some of Italy’s top fashion houses.

Speaking to James Watson, who showed me the holdalls, I gathered that there is a racing connection to these bags. I am not familiar with the world of motor racing, so had to research what GTO stands for. The term Grand Turismo Omolgato is Italian in origin, and refers to road-racing vehicles which are not designed as one-offs. The class of cars have at least limited production and are open for public sales. Maybe it’s something like going down to the Ferrari showroom and saying you want a fast car, not for parking outside Harrods in Knightsbridge but for racing cross country over rough terrain.

More interesting was the fact that Mr Watson told me that his great, great, great grandfather started A.S. Watsons, the renowned pharmacy chain in East Asia. More about it here, but it was so much more engaging to hear from a family member.


Some of Burford’s more interesting buildings (top) and James Watson with the GTO holdalls (bottom)


The other interesting shop in Burford is the Oxford Brush Company who assure that ‘we have a brush for everything’. Once you enter the shop you know you have reached brush heaven.



Some of my favourite foods (top) in Daylesford Organic in Kingham…shame I am on holiday and do not have access to a kitchen. A display of chopping boards made from woods such as walnut and maple (bottom). Like the Burford Garden Centre, this is a great place for the family to visit as there many things to look at, as well as a cafe and restaurant on-site.



Stow-on-the-Wold: we had gelato at the just opened Alfonso Gelateria, and peeked into D’Ambrosi Fine Foods. No food photos but here is one of a building I thought was unique (top). The one shop I would recommend here is The Crock, because it sells all kinds of useful household and kitchen items, like enamelware, which are increasingly harder to find these days (below).



We had a rest at the hotel before dinner at The Horse and Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill. Excellent fish and chips, but the menu has been reduced to three items each on starters, mains and dessert. I am not sure why, but since the service and Mr Gochugaru’s pint of Butcombe’s were both also excellent, I did not ask too much.



And So To Bed…

There is no shortage of good hotels and inns in the Cotswolds. We are staying at The Fish Hotel because its location is convenient for visiting nearby villages and National Trust properties. There is an on-site restaurant and it is possible to walk from the estate to Broadway and other towns. There is a boot room where you can borrow wellingtons and maps of the walks. To top it, they can send round a Singapore Sling to your room. La vie est belle mon ami.

Address: Farncombe, Broadway, Worcestershire WR12 7LH


Reception at The Fish Hotel