Two university friends fed up with the poor quality food and drink served in so many roadside cafes and motorway services are taking matters into their own hands, and kitchen. Just off the A30 near Okehampton, Devon and sharing a car park with a Travelodge, the two pals have completely refreshed a tired old Little Chef cafe creating a calming, fun, welcoming restaurant for travellers heading to and from West Country beaches and national parks.
Rupert Bernell-Nugent and James Pollock gave up careers in the pubco and accountancy worlds respectively to follow the dreams up the A-Road. With 10,000 or so cars full of hungry, grumpy and tired potential customers passing daily, the Hedge & Hog aims to offer something more than the brash plastic décor and food offered by so many roadside places. With the place often being the first time a traveller will stop at in Devon, they are seeking to offer a proper welcome and experience and showcase to the country’s burgeoning food scene.
For a start, the décor is more home-style than designed in a remote corporate headquarters of a hothouse design agency. With warm mellow oatmeally-buttery coloured walls, large windows overlooking rolling hills of south Devon and some leather armchairs and sofas its offers respite from the drudgery of bouncing over miles of tarmac and potholes.
During my visit with a bunch of food writers and Devon Food & Drink, Rupert and James were keen to highlight the pristine loos, baby friendly facilities and children’s play area – yup, it’s all true. And such selling points might give Hog & Hedge a place for locals to visit regularly, in addition to the passing trade.
In common with another, non-chain roadside eateries such as Westmorland-family run Tebay services in the Lake District and its Gloucester services, Hog & Hedge is aiming to offer customers high quality food, with lots of local connections and suppliers. Customers so generally seek comfort food and nothing to fiddly or fancy. The menu has been pared down to its current size with soups of the day the main changeable part of options available. Lunch is focused on toasted sandwiches, including the popular bacon, brie and cranberry and grilled veg and Gruyère cheese versions while supper (4-6pm) is all about pizza, and a hearty one pot stew. It’s good solid cooking, offering diners well made, familiar food. An impressive black and chrome Conti coffee machine pumps out espressos and flat whites while soft drinks include posh pop from Devon’s Luscombe Drinks – I recommend the spicy Hot Ginger Beer.
Opened in late 2014, the place is about to get some interesting graphics on the walls, including a map highlighting local suppliers such as bakers, butchers and greengrocer which will help make Hog & Hedge become a popular stop on the A30.
Oh, they’re also dog friendly!
In three words … Far above expectations