A review of The Pig at Brockenhurst
When I received an invitation to The Pig at Brockenhurst I seized the opportunity with gusto having read so many rave reviews since it opened last July.
Situated at the heart of the New Forest National Park and owned by the Lime Wood Group, this 26-bedroom hotel is just 2 hours by car or train from London.
I traveled from Waterloo with a group that included The Pig’s delightful PR, Primrose Smith, and two writers and bloggers, Jamie Cotter-Craig and Jassy Davis. Their company was one of the many highlights of the day.
Built as a groom keeper’s lodge and once the home of Lt Col The Hon Malcolm Bowes-Lyon, uncle of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, The Pig was previously known as the Whitley Ridge Hotel. For some time it was operated by Brigadier John Doyle, a nephew of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Pig is now part of the Lime Wood Group that also includes Lime Wood, also in the New Forest, and the Le Portetta hotel, lofts and lodges in Courchevel, France. The group, I am told, also plan to open further hotels in the Cotswolds and on the coast. Headed by Robin Hutson, best known for having created the hugely successful Hotel du Vin group and for his collaboration in the Soho House Group, Lime Wood have conducted a comprehensive refurbishment of this 17th century building and mixed classic and contemporary styles in a most effective manner.
Designed by Judy Hutson, who previously styled the first seven Hotel du Vin properties, The Peat Spade Inn, The Anchor Inn and The Queen’s Arms, the look at The Pig is “shabby chic.” Touches such as mismatched glassware give the place a really homely and relaxed feel and there is definitely something akin to Babington House about the atmosphere.
After a glass of champagne, we were introduced to The Pig’s knowledgeable head chef, James Golding. Passionate about the source of the ingredients he uses, Golding began his career at the age of 16 and trained at The Academy of Culinary Arts. After progressing through positions with The Savoy Group and at Le Caprice, J Sheekey, the Soho House in New York and at Harbour Heights in Sandbanks, he has created a menu that focuses on the “finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally.”
Golding took our group on a tour of The Pig’s grounds and imparted knowledge of the fruits, vegetables and other ingredients he uses to create a “25 mile menu” that changes daily to reflect what is available. This menu is one that is entirely governed by what is currently growing here and in season.
Many of Golding’s ingredients are foraged by “The Wild Cook” Gary Eveleigh, who is also known for taking passengers out into the Solent on his Puffin Cruises summer ferries, but others are grown in the hotel’s fruit cages, greenhouses and polytunnels.
Outside of the kitchen garden, The Pig also has a wild flower meadow but Golding’s clearest love is for the pigs he keeps in their paddocks. His dedication to them is shown in the colourful tattoos that pepper his arms.
Local suppliers include the Newhouse Venison & Game company, the Elling Tide Mill, Hutching Bros Seafood & Game and T. Bartlett & Sons. Detailed information on each is usefully displayed on the rear of the menu that we were given as we were led into The Pig’s delightfully airy conservatory restaurant.
At this point our group was joined by Jen Weatherley, the charming marketing manager of The Pig, for a jovial lunch that was truly phenomenal. The room was, as I had read in both Lucas Hollweg’s piece for the Sunday Times’s Style magazine and Zoe Williams’s review for The Telegraph, buzzing and packed with happy diners and I especially liked the informality of it.
To begin we shared a selection of “piggy bits” (all at £3.50) that included saddleback crackling that was succulent and flavoursome. The Hampshire red wine salami with Dorset olives, the Bartlett’s air dried “Karma” ham and most especially the Brock eggs with Colman’s were equally enjoyable.
Next, I opted for the duck egg and Bartlett’s black pudding hash with home reared crispy bacon and H.P. jus (£7 starter/£14 main). It was rightly the envy of the table and, for me, the best dish of the day. My stomach rumbles at the thought of returning for a second helping.
My main course had to be The Pig’s slow roasted pork belly that comes served with a roasted squash salad and apple sauce (£17). A signature of the restaurant, the meat was tender and the sides (all at £3.50) of sweet honeyed baby parsnips and the flower pot of triple cooked chips were delicious. The crispy tobacco onions, however, were undoubtedly the biggest hit with the whole table.
A sorbet with space dust was a welcome interlude and for the final course, I chose the selection of local artisan cheeses (£8.50). Served with homemade chutney, grapes and biscuits, the portion was generous and I found it most satisfactory.
Before leaving we were handed a book on pig husbandry. Inside it, cleverly, is The Pig’s cocktail list and it only seemed right to head to the bar to toast Golding and his team. My Negroni, made with Chase Gin, was perfectly made and just to my liking.
In summary, The Pig is an unpretentious place that is passionately run. My experience was faultless. Culinary delights like this are hard to find and as a result it’s joined the top draw of country destinations that, as the Telegraph piece laboured to mention, is even “busy on a Monday.”
Go the whole hog and head to The Pig. The only problem you’ll find here is that it’s so deservedly popular that there probably won’t be room at the inn.
The Pig, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QL. Telephone: +44 (0) 1590 622354. Website: http://www.thepighotel.co.uk
Room rates start at a very reasonable £125 per night.
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