Jo Rees channels her inner Delia and heads to rural Devon for dinner at Highbullen’s traditional country house hotel
Apparently, Delia Smith was a regular visitor to Highbullen in the 1970s. And if that wasn’t fabulous enough, it’s said that some of her early cookbooks contain recipes by Pam Neil, the hotel’s chef proprietor at the time.
Nowadays you won’t find 1970s-Delia style cooking at Highbullen – it’s more fine dining than fondue. Visit for well-executed dishes using classic techniques and served in a formal fashion.
Similarly, the hotel – which was built as a grand country home in the 1870s – has changed considerably. It’s had a big old refurb in recent times and the restaurant looks particularly smart. Elegant furnishings and lots of comfort in the dining room make this a spot for a long and lingering dinner.
But however much it’s changed, it’s still fun to imagine Delia in a Laura Ashley pin-tuck dress draining a Paris goblet of red wine here.
Period Delia would surely also have given an approving nod of her pageboy bob to the new Laura Ashley Tea Room which launches at the hotel this month. Cake and floral patterns are a winning British combo, after all.
VISIT for carefully crafted, classic fine dining in a rather glamorous restaurant with views of the rural surrounds. As the hotel is a little off the beaten track, it would be bonkers not to stay the night and explore the countryside if you get the opportunity.
DON’T VISIT with littlies in tow, this is a pretty grown up experience and more couples than kiddies.
WE LIKED the fresh crab starter, a well presented duck main and the star of the show, a towering puff of hot blueberry soufflé with divine vanilla ice cream.
INSIDER’S TIP If you’ve got a celebration coming up, the lovely private dining room would make for a fun dinner with chums.
What we ate (dinner)
Starter Pressed terrine of Devon ham hock, golden raisin puree, pease pudding, red onion relish
Main Roasted fillet of locally reared pork, chateau potato, summer cabbage, salsify, red wine sauce
Pud Blueberry soufflé with vanilla ice cream
3 courses from £39