‘Come and experience The Pig Near Bath – a 29 bedroom mellow country house perfectly situated near Bath and Bristol. This is a real get-away location, truly rural, with quintessentially English views of this undiscovered part of Somerset.
Designed in the style that has become The Pig’s signature, it features a greenhouse restaurant, a private room for dinner parties, 29 bedrooms and massage treatment rooms.’
The 29 bedroom country house, deeply nestled in the Mendip hills near Bath, sits modestly at the end of a picturesque woodland path where you’ll find chickens and quail running about a pen – ready to produce your morning eggs, no less (but we’ll get to that later). As we entered the reception area, the interiors were the immediate focus. Ornate rugs draped over dark chunky wooden flooring, rows of colourful Hunter wellies lining the door, and a general cosiness that permeated throughout the vast corridors and lounging areas.
It was no surprise, then, that our room would be an idyllic place to nest in for our autumnal night away at The Pig Near Bath. Although each room has its own identity, its own features and its own striking pieces of antique furniture (I wanted the leather trunk in our room so badly), there is a definite style that runs through The Pig. Quintessentially English, but in a homely and unassuming way; a clean, warm and earthy vibe that I could definitely sign up for on a longer-term basis (read: fully taking notes/copying for own home renovation).
A freestanding bath sat on another antique rug, perched between two huge windows that looked out onto deer park; while our four-poster bed stood elegantly against the back wall of the room, generously topped with plump down pillows and our soft white robes and slippers draped at the end. The bathroom was large to say the least – almost wet room-esque. And I do love a spacious bathroom. Delightful Bramley products galore and lots of trinket holders (they really do think of everything), I was ready to decant my over-packed bag and settle right in.
A 25-mile menu is proudly at the heart of The Pig’s dining experience and overall homegrown theme – for good reason too. Just along the gravel and brick paths on the grounds of the house, is a smoke house, greenhouse, fruit cages, wild flower meadow orchard, a mushroom shed, and chickens; and of course, pigs. Walking around and taking stock of all the fresh in-season ingredients that would be sitting at our table that evening was most comforting.
Dinner began with ‘piggy bits’, ‘fishy bits’ and ‘garden bits’ (all at £3.95 each) as well as a few starter plates for good measure (well, we had to try everything now didn’t we). Out came the Crackling & Apple Sauce – one of our absolute favourites – bubbly lengths of golden crackling with a fresh and tangy apple sauce dip (enough said). Staying on the pig theme, we delved into a plate of rich smoky Honey & Chilli Pork Belly before trying out some delectable Deviled Quail Eggs and a refreshing Potted Salmon on Toast. And this was just the ‘bits’ section. For the starters, we tucked into super moreish Crispy Onion Fritters, Lemon Drop Chilli & Apple Chutney (£8) and Mushrooms from the Shed on Toast (£7). The mushrooms were something I’d been most excited about, having watched one of the gardeners cut them out of the shed earlier that day. And they didn’t disappoint with their fresh full and robust flavour.
At this stage in the meal, having overeaten just a tad, we decided to take a little break and wander around the grounds for a much-needed breather. Back to our seats and a little more space in the belly, it was time to order from The Mendips section of the menu – the mains. Our waiter recommended me the Chargrilled West End Farm Pork Tomahawk, Garden Greens, Somerset Cider Brandy & Mustard Sauce (£19) and my husband went for the Bartlett’s 35 Day Aged 8oz Sirloin Steak, Thrice Cooked Chips, Bernaise Sauce & Garden Salad (£26), which he devoured with several nods (a very good sign indeed). Not that we needed anything extra, but we did decide to have a portion of the Thyme Roasted Courgettes (£3.95) to complement our mains, having seen them so beautifully ripe in the garden that day; needless to say they were sweet, brilliantly seasoned and bursting with a fragrant taste. When the Tomahawk arrived, I was a little overwhelmed by its sheer size. But one bite in and I was ready to take it on. The meat was tender, full in flavour, perfectly cooked and with a freshness so apparent, it made me want to have my own 25-mile food rule (if only).
As for the drinks, spoilt for choice would be an understatement. Being pregnant I wasn’t able to indulge, so my husband did enough for us both. That said, I was catered for with a stunning mojito mocktail, muddled with garden mint and a healthy helping of fresh lime juice (no alcohol needed here, she said). Being an ale drinker, my husband was able to taste many of the local choices on offer from Electric Bear Brewing Co., Lost & Grounded Brewer and Cheddar Ales – all within the 25-mile radius. At dinner, our sommelier made sure we were tended to at every stage in our meal. So passionate about the wines on offer and so knowledgeable about the very latest and greatest, I was beginning to feel just a teeny bit jealous of my partner in foodie crime. Although neither of us is a white wine drinker, our sommelier recommended a white and an orange to begin with. The Riesling, Thorle, Schlossberg, Rheinhessen, Germany was actually a bit of a hit (in small quantity I was told). The orange, a Slatnik, Radikon, Collio, Italy (2015) which I took a healthy sniff at, was unique and bold in flavour. Although the glass wasn’t empty, it was definitely a wine he talked about on our journey home the following day. Hands down, for my husband, the star wine was (unsurprisingly) the Rioja Reserva, Vina Tonilonia, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja, Spain (2005). Full bodied, but not spicy, rounded and easy drinking but not too light, I think he could have had the bottle!
Believe it or not, the next morning we were able to dive into an incredible breakfast spread (in our defence, it had been a solid nine-hour sleep before we ate again…ish). As well as a cooked menu to choose from (eggs, bacon, you know the rest), the buffet offering was table upon table of freshly baked breads, pastries, generously heaped jars of homemade jam (by Heavenly Hedgerows), conserves and giant bowls of cereals and granola; the latter of which I ate way too much of. Knowing that every morsel, right down to the butter on my bread and the yoghurt on my prunes, was all gathered within a 25-mile reach of the hotel, just made it all the more tasty.
Amongst the gardens and greenhouses, sit prettily a row of potting sheds. And it was in one of these quaint little sheds I was taken to have my pregnancy massage (£80 for 60 minutes). Cosily lined with tweed blankets, garden knick-knacks and rows of Bramley products, the potting sheds are homely and warm, subtly lit with candles and decorated with wild flowers. I immediately felt relaxed, not least because my therapist was so attentive and lovely. After a foot soak and a chat about my pregnancy aches and pains, it was time to nestle in to the fluffy white towels and enjoy the next hour of bliss. That night I had a wonderful sleep and my lower back pain had eased up by morning – winner.
Who goes there?
The crowd was varied at The Pig. When we arrived at reception, we saw two young couples together with babies, a mother and daughter duo, and a slightly older couple – all checking in for the weekend. As we wandered the grounds, we saw other small groups, all looking very well settled in; lounging in the gardens, drinking and taking in the beautiful surroundings. At dinner, the vibe was actually very lively in some comers of the restaurant, while very romantic and calm in others. The Pig is most definitely a welcome spot for anyone and everyone, and the diverse group of people staying there were testament to that.
The worst thing:
That we couldn’t set up permanent residency.
The best thing:
The food has to take the glory, although the setting and décor were on par.
Hunstrete, Pensford, Near Bath, BS39 4NS; 01761 490490; www.thepighotel.com