Recently I was invited on an adventure.
A train ride away from bustling streets and pushy Londoners, through rolling fields spotted with sheep, we eventually arrived in Brockenhurst.
Waiting for the group of bloggers and I were two Land Rover Defenders, each prominently marked with a golden pig. A short escort in the pig-mobiles down winding country lanes, past rolling New Forest ponies in fields and we had finally arrived at our destination.
A beautiful property with a great billowing tree welcomed us. The grand estate having once belonged to the Queen Mother’s Uncle was nothing less than breathtaking.
We entered the hotel, welcomed by gracious hosts handing out glasses of bubbling Prosecco to sip on our tour of the grounds.
Chef James Golding showed us through the darling, comfortable sitting rooms and out onto the rest of the property. Everything about The PIG exudes sustainability. The rustic wood oven blazing on the patio was created from a crumbling wall at the back of the hotel. To help with forest conservation, they fuel the oven with trees that have already died or have fallen in storms. I was incredibly impressed by each detail that has been taken into consideration for the sake of an ecological purpose.
He then excitedly led us to his very own smoke house with a gleam in his eye. Inside they smoke all their own products and even trade smoked salmon at the local Oak Mill in return for the smoke house’s fuel of Oak tree sawdust. We could smell the earthy smoke before Chef Golding even opened the door. Inside the little smoke filled room, pork belly was hanging to become a delicious dish on the menu and lavender was being smoked for an experimental cocktail. We were then shown around the gardens where they grow ingredients that are put straight into their dishes. Chef Golding told us that during spring and summer months, most of their menu is comprised of ingredients that have been grown or raised on site.
As we walked through the growth tunnels, he snapped off leaves, herbs and vegetables for us to smell and taste. The rocket was so peppery and fresh, I would’ve happily sat down and had my appetiser from the earth. We then followed the rosemary and daffodil lined path past the converted stables which are now beautiful guest rooms of the hotel. Through a small gate was the rest of the vegetable garden. Here gardener Olli tends to the vegetables and ensures they grow properly to eventually become part of one of The PIG’s plates. As we wandering past the daunting (charming) scarecrow, we came upon the tomato tunnel. Six different types of tomato are grown attached to strings to ensure the stalks grow vertically, which prevents any tomatoes from rotting in the soil. A curious wall of flaps revealed hidden sea kale. A delicious, crunchy vegetable that tasted like a sweeter version of celery is grown in the dark to ensure its light white colouring. Tucked into the back of the garden was a beautiful sage coloured greenhouse. Inside was an incredible assortment of herbs all in little, individual pots and trays.
Tucked in the corner was a beautiful kaffir lime tree which gave off the most incredible verbena lime smell that filled the little glass house. These limes are used to make simple syrups and liqueurs for cocktails served in the restaurant.
Behind the greenhouse was a cage where the darling looking quails lived. These quails produce fresh eggs each morning which become part of delicious dishes on the menu.
A tranquil spa treatment room is set off in the distance, which can only be reached by the bridge over the carp fish pond. I couldn’t imagine a more peaceful journey to receive a massage, although I don’t think I’d want to head back out into the elements covered in oil wrapped up in a robe. With the relaxed state of mind, I’d probably manage to end up going for a swim with the fish. We played with the piggies who came running like dogs ready for dinner. All ears flopping and noses oinking up to the gate for some love and affection. To our enjoyment, we watched Olli chase some chickens to show us their collection of six different breeds before he gave up and settled for a display of eggs. By now we had thoroughly worked up an appetite and decided to head up for lunch. We went past the Wellie lined hallway, available for those going on a foraging trip with The PIG’s very own forager, and into the breathtaking dining room. The room was so serene with doors open onto the patio, fresh herbs placed around tables and sunlight pouring in from the roof. It really was a nature haven perfect for digging into fresh ingredients from the grounds.
We pored over the delicious looking menu, each excited to taste what Chef Golding would create from the many ingredients we had just seen growing organically.A selection of cocktails were passed around the table with Kaffir lime syrup or home infused bog myrtle vodka.Then came the piggy bits.
A selection of tasters from the menu made for sharing and sampling.
First to try, the most delectable scotch eggs with perfectly cooked quails eggs nestled inside tender pork.
Then, crispy smoked pork belly, which had been marinated in spiced honey. This was absolutely divine and incredibly moreish. There was also long strips of crackling served with fresh applesauce, which everyone happily crunched whilst chatting about our adventure through the garden. Our starters then arrived. I shared a delicious artichoke salad with greens from the garden. The artichokes were served warm and were perfectly tender and sweet, contrasting nicely with the fresh bites of lettuce and sharp cheese. Then a sample of smoked salmon which had previously been smoked just outside in the smoke house. The salmon was delicious. Smokey flavours paired with a sweet honey mustard sauce and topped with the acidity of the lemon made for a delightful mouthful. The fish was garnished with edible flowers and paired with a pile of fresh leaves and pickled cucumber. Another diner had the most amazing smoked meat platter garnished with pickled radishes and soft quail eggs. Isn’t that beautiful? Then came the main event.
The Bath Chap.
For the faint of heart and veggies out there, look away now!
There was only one left in the kitchen and I happened to be the one lucky enough to get it.
The waiter checked with me to ensure I was aware of just what Bath Chap consists of. I can only imagine the surprise on many a diner’s face when, well, a face arrives.
Although it appeared to be rather intimidating, behind the layer of crackling was delicious meat. It went well with the tangy applesauce and had a lovely salad of fresh greens and butternut squash to accompany it. It was incredibly different to anything I’ve ever had, but I’m always one for trying something new.
After sampling all the delicious food, I was ready to go roll around in the mud like the stuffed piggy I had become.
The grounds of The PIG in The New Forest are incredibly peaceful and comforting, leaving you with a sense of tranquility far removed from fast paced city life. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to escape the city for a weekend away or a week of pure bliss. If you’d like to book a room, of course you’d like to book a room, click here.
If you’re in the area and fancy a piggy bite, I can’t recommend stopping for lunch enough. Make sure you book in advance as the dining room is always packed with piggies. To book a table, click here.
If you’re in Hampshire and fancy staying in the wall – yes I said in the wall – you have the option of the lovely PIG in the wall hotel as well. And for those wanting to stick your piggies in the sand, a PIG in the beach location is opening in Dorset later this year.
I can’t wait to book a peaceful, piggy visit back to The PIG! Oink!