Since opening their first hotel in the New Forest in 2011, The Pig group’s laid back vibe and pioneering ‘restaurant with rooms’ concept has provided an antidote to the traditional country house hotel offering.
The sixth in The Pig’s growing litter, The Pig at Bridge Place is the first of three new hotels as part of a £30 million expansion that will see two more piglets launching across this year and 2021. Situated in the picturesque Kentish village of Bridge, just three miles south of Canterbury, it’s the closet Pig to the capital and thanks to high-speed trains from St Pancras you can be whisked to bubonic bliss in under an hour.
The Grade 11 listed red-brick manor house dates back to the 17th Century and is set amongst five acres of land alongside a tributary of the Nailbourne River. There are seven bedrooms in the main building, an additional twelve in the adjacent coach house, and further accommodation spread across seven Hop Picker huts and a couple of converted lodges and barns. Outside you’ll find ample space for seating on the terrace, an extensive kitchen garden and two Potting Shed treatment rooms.
The Jacobean house, first built in 1638, was dramatically destroyed in a fire within its first hundred years and what remains today is a third of what first stood. A private home until 2018, under its most recent owner – the eccentric Peter Malkin – it was a notorious nightclub. As the posters in the loos reveal, Malkin’s Bridge Place Country Club was home to musical greats in the seventies and eighties and the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Kinks all stopped by at some point. ‘Ladies may come unescorted if they wish. Many do,’ one cheekily reads. In fact, the manager of the hotel commented that one of the locals informed him of the number of villagers who had been believed to have been conceived after a night at the club.
Beyond the loos, there are nods to its debaucherous past throughout. The interiors have a sophisticated rock’n’roll vibe and the warren of cosy lounging nooks in the main house have been repainted in dark jewel tones and decked out with low lighting and squishy sofas ideal for hiding away with a cocktail. Aside from the repaint, The Pig team have left the property much as they found it and the original features like the impressive wood panelling and ornate ceilings make it really special. There’s no cookie cutter design at The Pig and co-owner Judy Hutson has worked her interiors magic once again at this property using one-off antique pieces that work with the overall aesthetic.
Our room was just across the courtyard in the new coach house. A build so seamless we didn’t notice it had just been created (using reclaimed bricks for authenticity) until it was pointed out.
Dubbed a ‘Big Comfy Luxe Room’, it was sufficiently spacious with a super king bed, a small sofa, and in an in-room roll-top tub. The huge antique cabinet that housed the minibar was impressive and we loved the little touches like the vintage rug, the Roberts radio and the retro phone. The Bramley products found in all Pig properties are a joy to dive into and we made the most of both the freestanding bath and the walk-in monsoon shower so strong it felt like a satisfying massage.
I’d love to return for a summer stay in one of the reclaimed timber Hop Picker’s huts. With wood-fired stoves and the Pig’s signature baths they’re certainly winter proof, but will particularly lovely in summer when the wild meadow in front will be in full bloom and you can make the most of the porch in the sunshine.
With the huge kitchen garden on their doorstep (the Pig’s biggest one yet) and a location right in the middle of the foodie East Kent Triangle (that’s Canterbury, Whitstable and Faversham), the Pig team are spoilt for choice when it comes to curating the ever-changing 25 mile radius menu. Polish head chef Kamil Oseka has put her spin of things with the walls of pickles lining the restaurant giving diners a clue of what’s to come.
We kicked off with a cocktail in the bar where the farm to fork concept has been reinterpreted as garden to glass. We had great joy choosing the homemade infusion for our bellinis from a page long list that included rhubarb, lemon balm and purple basil. Sufficiently oiled we moved to the restaurant where our friendly waiter selected us a local bottle of white wine and brought us some snack sized starters to nibble on while we perused the menu. I enjoyed the moreish Crispy Oyster Mushrooms while my meat-eating companion raved about two of the much-hyped Pig classics: Crackling & Apple Sauce and Hock Eggs & Colmans Dressing.
The Pig’s menu is ideal for sharing with a mix of starters, mains and side dishes based on garden goods and local produce. No poor morsel of food passed our lips but highlights included the James Goulding’s Oak Smoked Salmon and Bardsley Cider Apple Dressing, the Plaice with Caper Butter, the Cumin Carrots and the Tenderstem Broccoli with Goats Cheese. There was no room for dessert but we manage a Chocolate Pudding with Sour Ice Cream which was every bit worth the fullness that ensued.
Who goes there?
Mainly couples on a getaway weekend. It’s a popular spot for anniversary celebrations and proposals. We were told there are some die-hard Pig fans who are keen to try them all and 4000 Pigophiles signed up to book at the new property when it was released.
Unlike some other country house hotels, it suits non-drivers or those without a car. It’s a short taxi from the train station and you can easily walk into the local village for a swift pint and a bite to eat or tie it in with a trip to the cobbled streets of Canterbury. Locals make up a big number of diners (60% at lunch and 40% at dinner) thanks to the close proximity to Canterbury and other Kent towns. The restaurant was nearly full when we visited on the first Sunday in Jan which says something for The Pig’s pull.
Out and about:
There are stacks of Hunters to slip on for a stomp around and we picked up an easy-to-follow map from reception and did a one hour loop past country estates, traditional hop houses and the cutest old railway station. It’s also well placed for a weekend, or even longer if you have a car. You could pop to Whitstable for oysters and Guinness on the beach or further along the coast to arty Margate or Deal.
The best thing:
A rural idyll just a hop, skip and a jump from London with guaranteed good food and spoiling touches throughout.
The worst thing:
A spa would be a lovely addition but I think I’m just being greedy.