A country restaurant with a hotel attached? More importantly is it worth a train journey from Waterloo to the New Forest for lunch or a quick getaway weekend for Londoners? In a rare venture into the countryside, I visited The Pig Restaurant and Hotel in Brockenhurt.
The Pig Restaurant is located in Brockenhurst, the largest village in the New Forest and approximately 2 hours by train or car from Waterloo station. With a population of just 3,500 residents, it is home to a population 1/7th the size of Camden Town.
This “stylish boutique hotel” curiously describes itself as a “restaurant with rooms located in the heart of The New Forest. […] comfy, interesting and homely”. They clearly don’t take themselves too seriously as they humbly admit that it “isn’t perfect” and they amusingly describe one of their boutique twenty six rooms as a “Super Stylish Sty”.
25 Mile Menu
Unlike Central London venues, The Pig is not solely reliant on a network of suppliers to bring fresh ingredients in to the kitchen. Their key advantage, and pride, is their impressive “25 Mile Menu”.
The team stress that everything on the menu is sourced “within 25 miles” of the venue with a bias to use produce from their own land or gathered by their own forager. Any meat, vegetables or herbs not ‘home grown’ on site is sourced from within a 25 mile radius of The Pig
This must be particularly attractive for those who dislike food which has travelled enough to earn gold ‘Frequent Flyer’ status and excellent for the food chain of local businesses (pun intended). This concept would be impossible to bring to venue in Soho… unless you want some local drunkards to forage ladies of the night and chain restaurant leftovers.
We were told that the head chef and head gardener meet daily to discuss what is currently ripe for harvest (or slaughter) and to plan ahead. Impressive, but I can imagine it must be rather challenging to balance the need to juggle the ingredients available and to consistently offer great dishes. However, based on what we had served on the day, they are doing an impressive job.
If you were attracted to ‘The Pig’ seeking pork I definitely recommend the pork cracking which arrives in the form of gloriously oversized bubbly strips. However, the item that caught my attention was the ‘Extraordinary Bath Chap’ which I was warned to be ‘not for the feint hearted’… but it was still as shock for some when it arrived at the table as half a pig jaw complete with teeth!
What is a ‘Bath Chap’?
The ‘Bath Chap’ is a pork delicacy. It is traditionally made from pig cheek and tongue “cooked and pressed into a mould, generally served breadcrumbed, and eaten cold”.
Unsurprisingly it originated in the West Country city of ‘Bath’ and the term ‘Chap’ came from a variant of the word noun ‘chop’ which meant animal jaw and checks.
“Is Bath chap off the menu? Butcher set to cook his final batch” – Bath Chronicle “Bath chap” – Recipes Wikia
The arrangement of the dishes is excellent and well considered. Those who like a splash of colour would’ve been pleased with our table as many dishes came decorated with vibrant blue flowers. Anyone familiar with Chef Gary Lee’s affinity for flower garnishes at The Ivy will feel at ease here.
The presentation is immaculate and it somehow retains a more relaxed ‘country restaurant’ feel. Some dishes are plated with in a casual rustic manner on wooden boards while others are arranged in a more ‘Michelin Starred’ style on white tableware. Although it sounds like a mishmash of approaches, it works extremely well.
This is a venue which seems to be able to hold a more homely feel, albeit the home of a very good chef with an sizeable dining room.
Dining Area & Ambiance
The dining room resembles a hybrid between a large summerhouse conservatory crossed with my city dweller stereotype of a farm yard kitchen. Cue images of wooden tables, wicker baskets and lots of green stuff (a.k.a. ‘plants’) adorning the tables.
During our lunch it was extremely bright with lots of natural light flooding the area. Interestingly the clientele seemed to be quite varied. The tables ranged from an ‘out-of-office’ business meeting to a multi-generational family gathering and every combination in-between. Amusingly the reaction to seeing the bath-chap’s ‘teeth on a wooden board’ seemed to be very universal, regardless of the table!
On Site Produce
The Pig definitely prides itself in growing and rearing its own supplies. After lunch we were treated to a guided tour of the hotel grounds. This include the resident pigs, quail and chicken which look very free range! As their “25 Mile Menu” claims, anything which they don’t have to hand is sourced from the local area or the menus adapted to take advantage of seasonal produce.
Most good chefs work hand-in-hand with their supplier to tell them what is coming to market. Chef James Golding’s primary supplier is effectively the head gardener and livestock team! Together they explained how they plan the vegetable harvest and co-ordinate with their forager to ensure they are as self sufficient as possible. It is great to hear how they meet daily to ensure the restaurant is well supplied.
The Pig has some excellent lunch offerings. ‘Hats off’ to the team brave enough to offer the “Extraordinary Bath Chap” (i.e. half a pig jaw on a plate, complete with teeth). Although it is certainly not for the squeamish, vegetarians, or those on a religiously constrained diet, it is well presented. If you’re a big fan of pork crackling I would recommend you visit just for this alone!
The Pig Hotel’s claim to be “really a restaurant with rooms located in the heart of The New Forest” is quite apt. Although when you arrive it gives the real impression of a boutique hotel, delve into the fabric of the place and you realise that everything revolves around the restaurant.
CONTROVERSY WARNING: For those in finance, it is almost identical to the edict that the British Airways is “a pension fund with an airline attached”. Both look like one thing but are actually another.
I am certainly no Giles Coren, but I have had the same complaint that my features are London-centric. (If you want to see Giles’s reply to that criticism, search on Google for his written response). Although I am not one to hanker for a ‘weekend countryside break’ I know plenty who do and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to those who want to get away from London but still eat very well!
Note: Many thanks to Jori White PR and The Pig for their invitation and hospitality.
More opinions on The Pig Hotel
“If you are looking for a beautiful destination in the English countryside to escape to for a day or a weekend, look no further. The Pig, a hotel and restaurant set in the heart of the New Forest National Park, is the perfect place for you”
The Pig in Brockenhurst, New Forest
Source: Mulia (Giulia Mulè)
“If you ever get stranded out of your London bubble but still want great food AND stylish surroundings, look no further than The Pig for a restaurant in the New Forest.”
Hotel review: The Pig, New Forest, Brockenhurst – part #1
A restaurant in the New Forest – The Pig review, part #2
Source: Into the F World (Serena Mariani)
“… if you are looking for a day-trip inspiration or perhaps a weekend gate-away the PIG is your destination, amazing scenery, incredible food, and cocktails to die for.”
“Oink! Shabby chic dining in the New Forest”
Source: The Daily Out (Federica)
“… the quality of the food was excellent, the atmosphere one of relax and calmness despite the place being packed full”.
“Lunch at the Pig, Brockenhurst”
Source: Pasta Bites (Federica)
Update 1: 28-Jan-2014 14h00 Edited “More opinions on The Pig Hotel” to correct names.