From the outside, it’s fair to say that the Rusty Pig looks rather unassuming. Situated in the quiet town of Ottery St Mary (where I happened to have been born) it’s hardly placed in a thriving hub of foodie activity. If I’m being totally honest, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance, if it weren’t for the outstanding recommendations I’d been given from more than one local foodies.
We visited last weekend after our friend Andy had routinely reminded us that we had to give the little independent restaurant a try. He said that their breakfast was well worth the visit and we were sold by the fact that the Rusty Pig team cure, hang and smoke all of their meats onsite. So, despite flakes of snow drifting in the sky, the family headed out into the bitter morning, wrapped in our scarves and winter coats, on the hunt for some wholesome, hearty food.
As soon as we arrived we received a warm welcome from the lovely Agata (who we already knew from her time working at Combe House back before it become The Pig at Combe). Always one to make her guests feel at home, she gave us a quick tour of the premises and explained how the local eatery was devoted to serving fresh, local produce in a relaxed communal atmosphere.
The place was remarkably quiet for a Saturday morning, though I suspect that it had a lot to do with the poor weather. We took our seats on a large wooden table by the entrance, which they explained was designed to seat multiple diners. From our vantage point, we had a clear view into the open plan kitchen and we were free to browse the many preserves and pickled vegetables that lined the restaurants shelves.
I’ll admit at this point that I’m not too sold on the concept communal seating. While I think it certainly has its advantages on special occasions, I don’t always like to feel forced into conversation with strangers if i’ve gone out to breakfast with friends and family. That being said, I think the Rusty Pig is attempting to bring together the local community through it’s food and I really do admire them for that.
Agata stayed to chat with us for a while and talked us through the menu – enthusiastically recommending their breakfast cocktails, which included a ‘Drunken Sow’ that combined espresso and full fat milk with healthy dose of morning alcohol! While the breakfast menu was not extensive, she did explain that their kitchen team would be happy to accommodate any special requirements and I was more than happy to tuck in to the highly anticipated selection of meats that had been lovingly prepared upstairs in the smoke room.
The folks both chose the Rusty Pig breakfast, which was comprised of black pudding, hogs pudding, a fried egg, crispy potatoes and beans. I, on the other hand, opted for the Devilled Kidneys on Sourdough with Pickled Crabapples. Ordinarily I don’t eat lamb (you can’t bottle feed an adorable little lamb one moment and then tuck into it the next!) but since the kidney’s were already combined together and ready to go, I set aside my reservations and dived right in.
Breakfast takes around 15 minutes to be prepared, cooked and served, meaning that you have plenty of time to enjoy a cup of tea or a locally roasted coffee as you wait (which reminds me, you’ve got to look up Black Bear Espresso). Of course, when it arrives you better be prepared to loosen your belt buckle, because the guys at Rusty Pig don’t do half portions!
It’s safe to say, this breakfast is a carnivore’s idea of heaven. Talk about fully loaded! Both of the folks really enjoyed this hearty dish. They loved the sweet bacon and the crispy potatoes, and the hogs pudding went down a storm.
I tried some of the breakfast myself and I have to agree that the hogs pudding is delicious.
My devilled kidneys were a real treat. Thankfully, the flavours weren’t too overpowering, as that can sometimes be the case with lamb in particular. Instead, the kidneys just melted in your mouth and they really did go beautifully with the sweet and tangy crabapples. If I had any complaints it would be that I wanted MORE of those little fruits, because the taste and textures went together very well.
By this point you’re probably thinking that Rusty Pig is a vegetarian nightmare, but after chatting with the team it quickly became apparent that they’re happy to cater to everyones needs. Dishes are prepared based upon seasonality and availability. While we were there we overheard them take a booking for 22 people that evening and apparently their current record for the amount of covers at once is 55! Their always up for a challenge and on all accounts they seem to be nailing it.
After we somehow managed to polish off all of our plates, I took a quick look behind the scenes and was impressed to find that Rusty Pig really does deliver on it’s promise of prepping all of its meat onsite. There were hunks of tasty meat’s hanging out back and strings of sweet smelling charcuterie stung up in the walk-in cooler. I came away with a real admiration for the restaurants authenticity and promised myself that i’d be back for an evening meal sometime soon.
Overall, I was really impressed by Rusty Pig. It’s not the sort of place I’d be going for a romantic dinner for two, but having said that it’s definitely the kind of place I’d head to if I wanted to enjoy a hearty plate of food in good company. The atmosphere is warm and the staff all seem genuinely happy to interact with the customers and get stuck in, which is fantastic. Lovers of meat and generous portions are sure to enjoy this little gem.