The Pig hotel in Hampshire has upped the bar on the country-house hotel: gone are the stuffy uniforms, paisley carpets and mismatched furniture, in is incredible local food, a relaxed, laid-back feel and effortless grandeur.
Double rooms from £219.00, including tax at 5 per cent.
Breakfast is extra (£13.50 for Continental; £18.50 for cooked too).
The hotel's connoisseurship extends to fine wines too: they've collaborated with Tuscan Tenuta Fertuna Winery to create three Pig Cut blends (a red, white and rosé).
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, treatment rooms, gardens, billiards table, bikes to borrow and a library of books and DVDs. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, mini larder with old-fashioned sweets and local snacks, and Bramley bath products.
Our favourite rooms
For a freestanding bath tub, book a Spacious or above. The rooms in the stable yard are the most unusual, with original fittings from their days on the farm, and names to match: the Piggery, the Pig House…Some are split-level and have their own courtyard.
There’s no spa at the hotel, just a Potting Shed at the bottom of the walled garden, where therapists come along from Lime Wood to administer treatments. Guests are also welcome to go and use the Herb House Spa down the road (it’s a 10-minute drive to The Pig’s sister property) for a small fee.
Each room has a handy book on topics such as gardening, pig rearing and hen keeping, as well as framed photos of herbs on the walls – leave the good-life guidelines at home, and learn from the experts here instead.
There’s one room suited to wheelchair users. The restaurant at The Pig is extremely popular, so be sure to make dinner reservations when you book or you might not get a table. A two night minimum stay is required at weekends.
Some rooms can fit a baby cot (£10 a night) or an extra bed (£20 a night for under-12s), on request only. A local nanny can be arranged with a week’s notice (£48 for four hours minimum). The restaurant serves smaller options for kids.
There’s a walled garden and full-time forager on site, to ensure all ingredients are sourced as locally as possible – 95 per cent of the menu comes from less than 25 miles away.
By the window for a superior view of the grounds; those who like their tables a bit more curious will enjoy dining on the recycled mortuary slab out on the patio.
Add some foliage to your ensemble to fit in with the ‘picked-this-morning’ theme.
The Pig’s restaurant is the feather in its hat, a glorious garden-y place with a conservatory feel – old wooden school chairs, plant pots on every table, foliage-covered trellises and a colourful mosaic floor. The menu changes suddenly, based on what the forager returns with each day, and much of the food comes from the on-site walled garden, smoke house and within the New Forest’s boundary lines. Everything's perfectly porcine, including a selection of ‘piggy bits’ (scratchings, chorizo and brawn) to start and a whole lot of other meat on offer. Outside, there’s a wood-fired oven cooking pizzas and flatbreads over the weekend. Breakfast is a banquet of boil-your-own eggs, delicious home-made granola and cakes, miniature pastries and hot food on order.
Drinks can be taken in the Drawing Room and Library, as well as the bar next to the restaurant – each room has lots of squashy armchairs, battered leather seats, mounted boar heads and stately oil paintings. The bar itself is an ornate, carved wooden number stacked with spirits. Try a glass of champagne with home-made elderflower juice, or some more of the hotel's own Pig Cut wines, made in collaboration with the Tenuta Fertuna Winery in Tuscany.
Breakfast is served between 7am and 10am; lunch is noon to 2.30pm; dinner is available from 6.30pm until 9.30pm.
None, but there’s a well stocked larder in every room, with hearty snacks including tomato biscuits and salami sticks.
The Pig is in the middle of the New Forest, a mile from Brockenhurst, just around the corner from Lyndhurst and close to Beaulieu.
Southampton airport is closest, roughly 25 miles from the hotel. A taxi will set you back around £35.
The drive to the station in Brockenhurst, a major stop for both Virgin (www.virgintrains.co.uk) and South West Trains (www.southwesttrains.co.uk), will take five minutes. The journey from London Waterloo should take around an hour and 40 minutes.
Southampton is the nearest big town, easily reached in less than half an hour. There’s free parking at the hotel.
It’s possible for helicopters to land on the lawn.
Worth getting out of bed for
Take advantage of the Pig's location near fantastic fly fishing: the hotel works with Upstream Dry Fly to provide a day of tuition on a private estate lake, including a picnic prepared by the Pig's chef. (If you're a bit more experienced, a day's fishing without tuition is cheaper.) Get out into the country air for a spot of horse riding, archery, falconry, cycling or rambling. The hotel can also arrange for the forager to take you out. Stock up on seasonal fruit and veg at Warborne Farm, a mile and a half east of Lymington. Visit the vintage cars at the Motor Museum in Beaulieu then walk along the river to Buckler’s Hard hamlet (lovely at high tide). Take the ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, then hop on an open-top bus to see the Needles.
Call in at sister property Lime Wood on Beaulieu Road for a choice of two dining options: the whitewashed Scullery, and the more formal Dining Room – the food at either won’t disappoint. At Beaulieu, try The Master Builder’s at Buckler’s Hard for lunch or dinner – this elegant rustic pub makes the most of the excellent local produce, turning a recent shoot’s venison into sausages and cooking up comforting Sunday roasts. More locally sourced fare awaits at the Oak Inn on Pinkney Lane in Bank – seafood from Lymington in summer and game from within a five-mile radius in winter. For something more Continental, head to Fra Noi on the high street in Lyndhurst, an Italian trattoria serving up authentic delights from foodie region Emilia Romagna.
It’s a rare weekend that Mr Smith and I are both at home in London. I tell him to drop everything, we’re heading to The Pig. It is understandable that Mr Smith looks confused: to say that we travel extensively, is an understatement. ‘Don’t you mean The Cow?’ he asks, referring to the Notting Hill pub and our local shellfish-showcasing kitchen-away-from-kitchen. ‘No. We’re spending Monday and Tuesday at a new country-house hotel in the New Forest,’ I tell him. ‘We’re going to Hampshire on a quest of newness,’ I declare. ‘Pack an overnight bag. Be hungry. And get Brockenhurst up on a map.’ Mr Smith, a director by trade, loves direction and being directed. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I blindly bark out orders prepping him for our last-minute escape.
Approaching Lime Wood hotel’s little sister late at night feels a lot like arriving at a friend’s home for dinner and a sleepover. That said, it is a friend who is significantly financially better off than us, with a wisteria-clad country pile complete with an old oak tree in the front drive, a walled garden out back, some pigs and a spa shed.
Oriental carpets, vintage wooden croquet mallets and oil paintings from yesteryear, backdropped by Farrow & Ball-toned walls, provide our first taste of the decor. Shelves in the sitting room are piled with books on animal husbandry and general DIY piggery (I make a note to pick up a copy of Highways & Byways of Hampshire to cure that niggling insomnia I’ve been experiencing). After a quick butcher’s of the look of the lounges, and a hello to reception, we make haste to the dining room. It’s the restaurant in particular that this blogging Cochonette is interested in.
Plotted up at a wooden table in the celebrated country-kitchen restaurant, we’re presented with the ‘25-mile menu’, which we savour excitedly, but having read on the website that the menu can change by the minute, we are also in a mild panic. The real-time system goes something like this: Garry the forager forages, Mike the gardener gardens, and James the chef chefs. And they work in cahoots so that we, the eaters, can eat. Like pigs. Local-and-seasonal creations could not come more inspired. Mr Smith kicks off our Dining Olympics with roast loin of New Forest venison served with roasted parsnips, curly kale and sloe sauce; I opt for the roast Beaulieu pheasant and late-season cepes with sprouts, chestnuts and wild mushroom sauce. Whizzing by in a whirlwind of homegrown flavours, soon enough our evening has us deliriously happy, fed and tucked up in bed.
Saddleback, in the former stable yard, is our cosy second-floor room where we wake the next morning overlooking the walled garden and a fledgling orchard planted with varieties such as apple winter gem, golden delicious, Worcester pearmain and spartan. Which inspires me to have a nifty label for the interior’s look: ‘scrumptiously spartan’. Walls are adorned with mirrors and antique horticultural pressings from Société Botanique de France. Riffing on the rustic and retro theme is the natural sisal carpeting, a Roberts radio, an old-fashioned rotary phone and a collection of National Trust guides and other pastel-covered theme-appropriate books on topics such as pig and hen keeping (‘More insomnia suppressants,’ suggests Mr Smith). A claw-footed bath sits on a warm wooden floor next to a wonderful sage-green shower.
Rain throws a spanner at attempts to race around exploring the New Forest and spitting grey skies puts paid to trekking out to Hurst Castle or a bounce around bucolic Beaulieu. So we return to The Pig rejected by the inclement weather, but not defeated; spirits are soon revived as we bounce between bar and fireplaced velvet-sofa’d sitting rooms. Cocktails are elegant concoctions of homebrewed this and herb-infused that, and whipped up in a most glamorous apothecary that doubles as a library.
Drinking at 4pm on a Monday conjures carefree memories of the night before. As we step out of what was built in the 17th century as a groomkeeper’s lodge, and crunch our gravelly way to our room around the corner from the pizza-oven-flaunting courtyard, we are hit with an incongruous samba soundblast. On the speakers is a Central American cover of U2 it would seem: ‘I steeeeeel have nothing found what I is lurking forrrrrr…’ croons the singer. As Mr Smith swings me to the Latin/Irish beats I wonder what Garry the forager might have been looking for that afternoon. After a quick snuffle around the kitchen garden, and a hello to the resident porkers in the field below, we gravitate back to The Pig’s graceful glasshouse dining room for more grub.
Supernaturally delicious garlic and garden-herb-butter-slathered wild ’shrooms on toast get the party started. Then it’s surf to share (Lyme Bay diver scallops with jerusalem artichoke purée, crones and golden beets) and turf to fight over (38-day matured, 16 oz T-bone steak from local Pennington Farm). A toffee russet-apple tartlet defeats us and we slope off to slumber as greedily as we pounced on dinner.
Sunshine blasts through the bad-weather bleakness for the morning of our departure. In the glass-roofed restaurant, the rays bring out the cheeriness of the colourful encaustic floor tiles in the plant-filled dining room. Local jams, honeys, cheeses, bread, and DIY boiled eggs make the farmhouse breakfast pretty enough to paint and leaves us with the best possible taste in our mouths. We collect our bags, and are nearly off, when Mr Smith spots an enormous wooden tree swing in the garden. A massive rainbow is visible above. As we take turns swooping back and forth and staring at the red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet bow, I realise I have not felt quite so giddy-in-a-good-way in some time. Mr Smith looks at me and then at the sky and smirks, ‘Can you see what I can see,’ he asks, ‘or was it those wild mushrooms?’