Robin Hutson does it again

Robin Hutson does it again

In 1994 Robin and his partner Gerard Basset founded the first Hotel du Vin in Winchester. They subsequently open a further six hotels, mainly in the South, before selling the group in 2004.

Having stayed at several of his establishments and hugely enjoyed the experience, I have had a great respect for Robin and his wife Judy. Their style has always been very customer focussed and unpretentious but never lacking in comfort and quality.

In 2009 Robin opened the Lime Wood hotel outside Lyndhurst in Hampshire and created media activity when he shrewdly involved the top chef, Angela Hartnett, to create menus that the ’London crowd’ would be bound to follow.

Never one to sit still, Robin and his new partner, David Elton, then opened the first of the Pig Group venues in 2011 in nearby Brockenhurst. With Judy Hutson’s interior design input, the Pig concept of restaurant with rooms has subsequently expanded to Southampton, Bath and Studland in Dorset.

Recently, in August 2016, they opened their latest venue, the Grade 1 Elizabethan manor, The Pig at Combe, close to the ancient lace making town of Honiton in Devon.

This was just too close to home not to be our next must do on the bucket list. A Monday lunch reservation was made and with all the expectation being high we were perhaps riding for a fall. After all, if any meal is going to show the cracks it would be Monday lunch.

Driving up the approach to the hotel through beautiful East Devon scenery was charming, as was our greeting. We were ushered into one of the shabby chic lounges with glasses of champagne and the menus.

While we were perusing the choices for lunch we looked around us at Judy’s choices of décor – perhaps a little more chic and a little less shabby would make for a more comfortable experience in this 16th Century property.

The dining room was stylish and hectic. An army of delightful, relaxed young people were extremely attentive and quickly produced the smoked salmon and octopus starters, followed by crab salad with chips, then stunningly finished by triple chocolate tart.

Sad to say, with a packed dining room, the chef was far too busy to congratulate personally, but he deserved it. The whole lunch experience made you want to return constantly and l’addition was a very pleasant ending to an excellent visit.

If you want something even more relaxed or you have children to consider then The Folly in the garden with its wood fired pizza oven would certainly fit the bill.

No wonder so many people have enjoyed staycations this year. British hoteliers, like Robin, are heavily investing in their properties and their facilities, knowing that for many years to come, more of us will be turning our backs on Europe and enjoying all that the UK has to offer.

In spite of all the arguments for and against Brexit, the EU is playing straight into our hands.

Well done Robin, you’ve done it again.