Friday, 2 May 2014

The Pig Near Bath, Somerset

The Pig near Bath is the third incarnation from the hotel group. We visited the original in the New Forest, so called ‘a restaurant with rooms’, in the hope of dinner. We instantly fell in love with the place; big squishy couches in darkened, wood-panelled rooms were made for flopping on and a wander around the working gardens in the sunshine was idyllic. We drank a morose beer when our last minute request was turned down, and instead headed for The Limewood Hotel. When the opportunity came up a few months later to go away for the weekend, the recently opened Pig near Bath seemed the perfect choice.

The Pig opened a mere two weeks before we visited, though you’d never guess it. Service was slick, from check-in to check out. Formerly Hunstrete House, the group's house style is 'shabby chic', though I use the term shabby very loosely. A maze of rooms are tucked away, with one revealing a beautiful bar, others a crackling fire, and a billiards room. 

Our bedroom, of the ‘comfy’ range, was located inside the main house, while the swankiest 'hideaways', set over two floors with wood burning stoves and free-standing baths, are set within the gardens. A kingsize bed dominated the room, facing a flat screen TV. I loved the little touches of detail, like a variety of books about wild food and beekeeping. On opening the cupboard beneath, we found a fridge filled with local beers and ciders, sweets and snacks and a Nespresso machine. One of the better looking mini bars I’ve seen, and actually reasonably priced.

Like it’s sister in Brockenhurst, The Pig near Bath also has extensive gardens to supply the kitchen. Rows of kale and chard, spring onions, lettuces and cabbages were planted. The pot plants, upon closer inspection were actually arrangements of rosemary and brassicas. Little wooden sheds lined the edge of the gardens for massages and other holistic therapies, and the restaurant itself was housed in the conservatory. Jumbles of potted herbs that adorned every table, seemingly higgledy piggledy. It was too tempting not to taste some of the more unfamiliar ones, like lemon mint. 

Breakfast, not included in the price of the rooms, is charged at a flat £10 for the extensive buffet. Local jams and honey are offered with toast, along with a water bath to suspend the so-fresh-they’re-covered-in-poo eggs to cook to your liking. I almost stole one of the nifty egg timers. Huge bowls of granola, yoghurt, pastries and dried fruit were available, as well as slices of ham and cheese, so that you can breakfast like the continentals do. I was disappointed that the fruit offering was limited to apples, oranges and bananas. 

For an extra £5, you could add a savoury cooked breakfast item, and for a lighter breakfast i.e. not including the buffet, they charge £8 for things like a sausage sandwich, beans on toast, porridge. I found their price points slightly tricky. I knew we were heading for a big lunch that day so I had hoped for just a poached egg on toast, perhaps with some fruit but if I’d paid a tenner for that I’d feel ripped off. I am also uncontrollable around buffets. I ended up having a three course breakfast.

After a mooch around Bath, we returned for lunch. Our table overlooked the vast expanse of gardens, beyond to the deer grazing on the Mendip hills. My starter of a fried duck egg with kale, braised radishes and asparagus was simple and clean, pretty and vibrantly coloured. Soused herring, just lightly pickled was served at room temperature on top of warm, creamy white beans, a hearty portion for a starter.

It was the mains that were the star of the show, though. The ‘extraordinary’ Bath chap was exactly that. Half a pig’s face on a wooden board was the length of my forearm. The sheet of crisp, bronzed crackling had been loosened from the flesh and could be lifted off like a plate of armour. Below, a row of teeth were a dramatic and gruesome sight, as we were warned. Pigs have teeth. I know that. I don’t have an issue with my food looking like the animal it came from, but the blackened molars are likely to give small children nightmares. The darker cheek meat was rich and tender, lined with a layer of creamy fat. A pile of apple sauce accompanied the crackling, and we regretted ordering the pork scratchings and apple sauce snack option a mere half hour ago, to tide us over while we perused the menu.

Wild rabbit, deboned and given the KFC treatment arrived on a bed of sweet and vividly orange carrot puree. Although the coating was crisp, greaseless and nicely spiced, I wasn’t entirely convinced that chicken should be replaced with the leaner meat of rabbit. There’s a reason fried chicken is so popular. It’s all in the juiciness.

Ever since I saw the rows of purple and green kale in the garden, I craved their iron-rich bitterness. The side we had of it, steamed, was essential in relieving our palates. Tobacco onions were in fact shoestring onion fries and were coated in some sort of spicing. I couldn’t stop eating them, even when I knew eating more would cause some sort of internal damage. Two thirds of the way in, we admitted piggy defeat. The triple-cooked chips remained untouched. We waddled off to the library room to park our whale-like selves in front of the fire, peppermint tea in hand. Half an hour later, we retired to bed for a 4pm fat nap. Essential to aid digestion. 

The meal wasn't especially cheap, with starters around the £7 mark and the mains shooting up to the late teens. The sides push everything up that little bit more, but the quality of cooking and the standard of ingredients made our lunch there of decent value. It was an idyllic location, peaceful and beautiful. If you're not careful though you could seriously over-pork yourself - the snacks are mainly pig based, we almost ordered the slow-cooked crispy pig cheek starter, and look at that Bath chap! It is actually possible to over-pig. 

So, I think you can probably guess I really liked The Pig. A lot. It was everything I love about so-called 'boutique' hotels; posh enough to feel like a real treat, but not too posh that it becomes stuffy, or I feel sheepish about being there. Our local cab driver told us that it was mainly 'you London lot' that made up the clientele - indeed, I spotted someone I'd done some work with there. Small world. So not entirely suitable to go and completely hide away, then... 

Rooms start at £139 per night on weekdays, and can go up to £250 per night at weekends for the seriously swanky ones. 

The Pig Near Bath
Hunstrete House, 
Nr Bath,
BS39 4NS


Yas said...

Hi Lizzie,
Love your blog. However I must correct you - it most certainly is NOT possible to over-pig. I believe I may set up home in some nearby shrubbery and call it 'The Bush near The Pig near Bath'. Endless supply of crackling... ahhhh bliss...

Unknown said...

Oh God, that Bath chap! ARGH. The teeth would have sent me over the edge I think, but oh the piggy goodness of it all.

I went to the one in Southampton earlier in the year, which sadly doesn't do food other than breakfast, but that breakfast was amazing. I am entirely with you on being unable to resist a buffet, and I adored everything that I ate and drank, and the lovely game of Scrabble we had over cocktails the night before. What a lovely bunch of hotels. Bath sounds brill.

Hollow Legs said...

Yas - I am not sure, you know. I mean, I ate a LOT of pig. I burped pig. I think I looked like a pig. But now I want some crackling, so it couldn't have been that bad, eh?

Kat - Yes, they were pretty gruesome! I would love to visit the one opening soon in Dorset - I love the seaside.

FoodNerd said...

Awesome, I have a table booked for a few weeks time and looking at your pictures, I really can't wait now!!

FoodNerd x