It’s not every day that you turn 30. To celebrate the occasion back in late October, Sarah surprised me after work by commandeering the car and directing me down a series of narrow country lanes near Bath. Given her notoriously poor sense of direction, it was therefore both a relief and surprise when we arrived at the entrance to The Pig near Bath for a rare staycation.
Making ourselves at home at The Pig
Spending a night away is, for me at least, always something of a paradox. I want to feel as comfortable as though I were at home, yet find differences that make it feel like a true treat. At The Pig, whilst there are bedrooms in the main house, we were lucky enough to have a quaint cottage right on the edge of the kitchen gardens. Opening the wooden door of ‘The Gardener’s Shed’, we immediately felt both home and away, thanks to the many intimate touches on offer.
The bathroom had both a rainfall shower and gorgeous roll top bath; we sadly don’t have room for one at home so this felt like a real upgrade! Completing the luxurious feel were a generous selection of posh toiletries from Somerset based Bramley. They smell gorgeous and have really unusual combinations such as lemon, mandarin and rosemary. Perfect for a hot, relaxing bubble bath.
Perhaps it’s just because we like pigging out, but it never feels like a proper night away without a special meal to accompany it. The Pig has got your back though with a rather brilliant menu of locally foraged, sourced or hunted seasonal food. So seasonal in fact that it changes daily depending on what the forager finds and the gardener decides is ready. This is wonderful in theory although a nightmare if you are indecisive like us.
Food is served in a truly stunning orangery attached to the main house. Hundreds of young plants, waiting to be planted out for future consumption, line the windows and create a really unique setting; think rustic farmhouse meets indoors cottage garden meets epic country mansion.
Foraged and grown
Having earlier seen the gardener feverishly stalking the vegetable plots looking for the tastiest, freshest morsels, I was eager to order the chargrilled zermatt leek, served with a beautifully crisp hens egg, and a lightly spiced chilli and tarragon dressing. Sarah meanwhile opted for ‘Fran’s Fennel Risotto’; despite being a starter, a huge steaming plate of perfectly creamy al dente rice arrived. The flavour was immensely fresh, yet subtle enough not to overpower the tastebuds. We’d ordered a bottle of The Pig’s house white wine which complemented the dishes wonderfully; the wine list ranges from £20 up to the all together more extravagant but you needn’t worry as the sommelier was always on hand to carefully guide guests.
Moving onto mains and Sarah went for her usual staple, a 35 day aged sirloin steak. Served with dry, crisp thrice cooked chips, a buttery bearnaise sauce and the freshest of garden salads, the steak was perfectly cooked and mouth wateringly tender. I struggled to choose as it all sounded dreamy, but eventually I plumped for freshly caught chalk stream trout from the highly prized River Test. Perfectly flaky, it sat on a bed of quinoa and spicy Hampshire chorizo; highly enjoyable and really quite pretty with dainty flowers on top.
Although we were by now rather full, our waitress helpfully steered us towards her favourite puddings. Sarah was always going to go for the sticky toffee pudding, coated in ginger rosemary butterscotch and a healthy dollop of clotted cream. She has rather a high benchmark for this classic pudding, but it rose to the occasion; light and with a slightly savoury twang. I have a hugely sweet tooth and so a set honey cream made from The Pig’s own beehives seemed like the obvious choice. Accompanied by lavender ice cream and honeycomb, it was the perfect end to a truly wonderful meal. I’d come back for this alone, although I’d equally love to try everything else on the ever changing menu too.
Time for bed
Retiring back to our room, we were too stuffed to enjoy the minibar full of local artisan produce. Instead, we settled for a Nespresso in front of the toasty log burner. Don’t worry if you aren’t au fait with a match and kindling though; ask nicely and they’ll even come and light it for you.
Thanks to the super comfy King size bed, Sarah for once couldn’t accuse me of hogging the duvet. Not that I would ever do that of course. Having slept soundly, we awoke to the sound of the cute vintage Roberts radio, and the early morning sun peeking through the shutters. Bliss.
Whilst the staff were predominantly on the young side, they were exceptionally well trained and made a fabulous stay all the better. Our main waitress was clearly passionate about food and spot on with her recommendations; definitely get the tobacco onions on the side as they are a winner.
I am not a huge fan of over familiar service but she always appeared exactly when needed, making funny jokes and taking the time to engage us in charming, real conversation.
Having mentioned it was my birthday, I also got a special pig wafer on my dessert accompanied by a well judged joke about being a piggy. Simple but highly effective in making it a memorable experience.
My favourite moment had to be at breakfast though. Cue a waiter waltzing around the orangery, balancing a huge pile of pastries straight out of the oven. There were already some on the groaning breakfast tables, but he wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on the freshest, crispiest croissants and pain au chocolats going. How kind is that?
That example pretty much epitomises The Pig’s raison d’etre; nothing is too much trouble. The beaming smiles spread across the staff’s faces suggest they enjoy being at The Pig as much as the guests.
How do you like your eggs in the morning?
Personally I’m a big fan of poached and The Pig delivered perfect white spheres filled with oozing golden yolks.
I almost wish I’d had boiled though. Amongst the smorgasbord of breakfast treats, they have a machine that will boil eggs to your own personal perfection. When they’re ready, you can choose from a rainbow assortment of cute little Le Creuset egg cups, all standing to attention and ready to serve alongside your Bertinet bakery sourdough soldiers.
For the more traditional amongst you, The Pig offers a Full English with locally sourced ingredients. The sausages and bacon were properly meaty and had plenty of seasoning. There’s also kippers, Sarah’s go to – avocado on toast, and in fact just about anything you could want.
If your night away has left you feeling more continental, you can instead help yourself to local yogurts, honeys, preserves, fruit, meats and cheeses. Brie and Godminster cheddar for breakfast is a positive life choice right?
The Pig offers a whole host of relaxing diversions to its guests. Slipping some of the guest Hunter wellies on, we padded across the lawns to the herd of resident fallow deer. Visiting in mating season, we were privileged enough to see these magnificent beasts rutting and grunting in the throes of battle. You can hardly blame them though; at this time of year, there are plenty of humans who are after some prime haunch too.
A well stocked bar whips up some delicious cocktails, which you might choose to enjoy in the billiards room or one of the many board game filled snugs. Should the weather turn, there’s a hidden cupboard filled with enough DVDs to keep even the fussiest of viewers entertained. For real relaxation, there’s also a mini spa in a garden lodge, offering massages and other pampering packages.
The local area
If you can drag yourself away, you’re within easy reach of the glorious cities of Bath and Bristol. You’ll find independent shops and restaurants galore, a stunning Abbey, and if you visit the National Trust’s Dyrham Park, there’s even more deer to stalk. You could also venture further afield with the entire Cotswolds on your doorstep; we’ve written a handy A to Z guide to make exploring even easier. You’ll most likely need a car to get around but you will struggle to find a prettier day out.
The Pig near Bath is definitely one of those places you’re going to want to return to again and again. If you are flexible, you can get some cracking last minute deals too! Realistically I can’t imagine ever being bored of the hotel or its surroundings but, just in case, there are several other Pigs around the country too. I fancy The Pig on the Beach next year please darling! Pretty please…