Pigging out at superb hotel

Forgive me, but I thought piglets all tended to look the same.

Cute, adorable, more cuddly miniature versions of their demanding parents.

So it was surprising then to discover this piglet was remarkably different in so many ways, but not too many that you couldn’t easily identify the breed.

The Pig near Bath is the almost latest creation from Winchester-based hotel guru Robin Hutson and his team and is sibling to the now nationally-famous Pig in the Forest in Brockenhurst. (The very latest is The Pig on the Beach which opened in Studland, Dorset at the end of June).

And at first glance, as we arrived at the former small stately home tucked into a fold in the Mendip Hills near Bath itself, this piglet certainly looked similar to its Hampshire counterpart.

Well groomed gardens, a scattering of art – including two huge life-sized porkers guarding the main entrance – the courtyard, the sheltered al fresco dining area and the trademark conservatory-style dining room.

There was the walled – well, semi-walled – garden ensuring home-grown produce for the table and the entrance hall offered wellies, brollies and the promise of come whatever the weather chucked at us, staff at The Pig were equipped to cope.

The rooms both communal and private we knew would be fabulous, as would the dining we hoped. The company was certain to be, well, relaxed.

So far so on course for another Pig adventure: comfortable in its reliability, almost familiar to those who know Brockenhurst and Southampton’s The Pig in the Wall well.

And yet, nothing is exactly alike in this world, not even piglets. It didn’t take long to realise this particular porker had a character all of its own.

In decor the changes are fairly obvious. Instead of quirky boar heads to adorn the walls as at Brockenhurst, in Bath we have marvellous deer and stags. None of the creatures ever actually wandered the nearby fields and woodlands, of course. These are superb works of art so animal lovers need not fear.

In fact there are quite a lot of the real thing at the hotel. A large herd wander adjoining grassland, some of which belongs to The Pig.

There’s a different approach to the food as well. Not too marked. The emphasis is still on home produced, foraged or sourced food, which ensures a Somerset flavour to meals. In the fantastic kitchen garden head gardener Ollie can be found helping to decide that day’s menu with head chef Kamil Oseka. If it is fresh then it is likely to feature. And, as with Brockenhurst, the kitchen garden is more than just functional, it is a work of art in itself, a growing, changing work of art.

Crayfish and wild onion chives from the hotel lake, home-smoked haddock or salmon, quail and hen eggs from the coops, vegetables and fruit from a stunning home-grown selection. Baby pigs to visit – thankfully not for eating.

The meals we experienced – dinner and breakfast – were stunning. Our choices were of home-made venison and pork belly faggots, Kentucky fried local rabbit, fillet of Mere Farm rainbow trout, or what about pea and ham hock risotto? Crispy tobacco onions or radishes and Mr Hill’s wild garlic mayo were some of the side orders on offer.

I chose the slow-cooked crispy

pigs cheeks for starters and then the faggots. Mrs M plumped for the James Golding home smoked salmon and over roasted rump of Withywood Farm lamb. Superb.

The Victorian-style greenhouse conservatory dining room with its eclectic mix of seating and cutlery made the experience unique. A drink in the cosy bar where we, naturally, chose not to disturb a well-known fashion model and husband who were catching up on a little relaxation away from the public gaze, and the evening eased into the later hours.

Our room awaited, of course. We had chosen one of the hideaways, superb rooms hidden in the kitchen garden. Set on two floors, ours had its own wood-burning stove, enormous comfy four-poster bed, and home-from-home comforts and fittings. The windows downstairs opened onto the adjacent field where nosey deer were as fascinated by us as we were with them. Upstairs we found an enormous bathroom complete with free-standing bath and the most gigantic monsoon shower.

All  of the hotel’s larger rooms, we were later to find out from staff, enjoy free standing baths, monsoon showers and heaps of the lovely amenities we were enjoying.

After a lovely breakfast the following day, and it was time to head off to the city of Bath just twenty minutes away. 

Before we left we ambled through a few of the public rooms left to explore and found a sensational private dining room/seminar-cum-meeting venue. A wonderful billiards room would be a must for when we returned another day, as would one of the tempting spa treatments on offer at The Pig.

Yes we would return, Mrs M informed me emphatically, and who am I to ever argue with Mrs M.

More details can be found at: thepighotel.com.