Three sniffling pigs trotted over to their fence to welcome me to Glebe House. I should gaze at the rolling hills of East Devon, gaze at the tulips on the estate or gasp at the perfectly mown croquet lawn, but the pigs catch my eye. I spend more time than I’d like to admit cooing over them in their wooded enclosure, but something tells me they’re not kept as pets.
The guest house is known for making everything from A to Z for its 30-seat restaurant. Today, a four-course Sunday lunch awaits – and pork is on the menu.
Inside, the reception is more formal. At least, as formal as it gets at Glebe House, nestled in the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In a casual entry room at the heart of the house, muddy wellies sit on antique boot racks, wildflowers gather in mismatched vases, and busy chefs greet happily.
An iPad hidden under the stairs is the only clue that it is the reception. Other than that, it’s more like being welcomed into the home of a long-lost family member than checking into a hotel.
The reception staff – who have a knack for being both “on the ball” and “totally relaxed” – rushed over to greet me and seat me.
Tables are scattered throughout the property, and I’m seated where the action is: on a big kitchen table overlooking the pass, with my dining partner and another rather excited couple. Glebe House has a reputation that precedes it, after all.
The late Georgia mansion has been run as a B&B since the ’80s, run by the parents of current owner Hugo Guest. When it came to selling the estate, Hugo and his partner, Olive, decided something had to be done.
Hugo grew up here and in March 2020 – an infamously difficult year for hospitality – the London-based couple decided to take their jobs and move to the countryside with their three-month-old baby to save the family home.
Inspired by the Italian agriturismo model and armed with glossy paint and lots of wallpaper, the couple have carried out a stunning renovation of the property. The result is a fresh take on a British B&B, and since launching in 2021, Glebe House has been making waves in this sleepy corner of Devon. Antique silverware clinks as it’s placed around us, and we crack open our first crisp cider. There’s only one on the menu, unfortunately, and it’s from Dorset. No offense to Dorset, but a few other crisp Devonshire options would go down brilliantly here.
Meanwhile, head chef Sam Lomas – a Great British Menu finalist and graduate of the River Cottage Chefs’ School – tinkers happily in front of a large red Aga. He is accompanied by an equally jovial Hugo.
Their carefree air in no way betrays the exquisite dishes that we are about to taste. Bam: a perfect example of sourdough porridge. Boom: homemade charcuterie. We are struck by entries that make us realize: these chefs are serious.
When I ask the waitress where the pork for the salami comes from, she winces. I guess I’m not the only one adapting to country life.
Next, a wild garlic tagliatelle tastes like a walk in the woods, while grilled asparagus is served with an imaginative roasted pumpkin seed and hard-boiled egg dip. Porchetta is the main event, served with cannellini beans and salsa verde. The buttery soft meat is slowly cooked overnight before being puffed in a hot oven to send the crackle into overdrive.
It comes with a glass of Delmoro de La Comarcal – a big, bolshy Valencian red that goes well with the salsa.
When we’re not engrossed in food, the people next to us give us a little taste of East Devon’s food renaissance.
“Devon is a foodie destination now,” the local resident of over 25 years tells me as he leans over the table – and I’m inclined to agree. He’s amazed at the explosion of good food he’s seen over the past five years, he says.
He raises his eyebrows as he gazes around at the decor that made this hotel an overnight Instagram hit (16,000+ followers), adding: ‘But this one is a bit more… ‘hip hop’.’
After lunch, we are shown to our rooms and I have the opportunity to snoop around these famous interiors on Insta.
The living room is a maximalist’s dream, painted a dusty peach and furnished with a sumptuous mustard sofa and sapphire blue armchairs with William Morris-style printed cushions.
My bedroom, overlooking the valley, is a bucolic haunt of embroidery, flowery headboards and patterned throws. The bathroom is equally charming: a flowery refuge of light pinks, gleaming brass finishes and a rolling bathtub that promises truly relaxing baths.
And while Hugo and Olive probably wouldn’t like me to move into my quarters permanently (understandable), maybe they’d be okay with me moving into the gorgeous downstairs bathroom. floor, which have adorable strawberry-patterned wallpaper, wildflower bouquets, and a marble-top sink with ruffled gold fabric trim.
Thanks to Olive, an established artist in her own right, fiery and fun art underpins the Glebe House experience. Throughout the house there are works of art by truly exciting artists. Some are for sale, others the owners can’t bear to part with.
After exploring the house and trying out the game of croquet, it’s time to eat… again. Fortunately, dinner is a simple affair: a selection of cold cuts and cheeses served with a piece of that cheerful homemade bread, pickled raisins and fruit.
The evening was spent reading poems from the library, soaking in the tub, and wondering if I should pack everything up and move to the country.
But before I can put my house on the market, it’s time to leave. There’s just enough time for another culinary odyssey: breakfast. Fruit compote and yogurt with fresh apple juice and coffee are followed by a thick slice of bacon, crispy fried eggs and homemade brown sauce.
In the end, I fell in love with the house so much – and the idealized slice of country life it presents – that my partner practically has to drag me out of the dining room.
On the way to the car, I say a sad farewell to the pigs and wonder if I will see them again – and in what form.
Poor pigs. Maybe I’m not cut out for the good life after all. For now, one night at Glebe House is more than enough.