Pig by name, pig by statue, pig by taste… Outside the month-old modern-luxury hotel that is The Pig Near Bath, there are two lifesize porker statues outside the front door of the hotel, and of course the gal had to ride one. Until a few years ago this was Hunstrete House, and formerly the private home of the Dupay family – they returned last week and were, not surprisingly delighted to see the life and passion that has been put into what is now a fabulous 25-room hotel. This is THE place to come for natural, bric-brac and designer, chic, with oodles of unique points of fascination.
Where but at a Pig are you likely to find such a range of home-infused spirits? The eager-beaver team here have had a field day with the produce in the highly-productive two-acre Walled Garden, a true gardening manual when it comes to edibles. In the main bar stand rows of own-infused drinks. Want gins? Try rosemary and ginger, or coffee, or lemon and lime, or greengage, all as a change from Bombay Sapphire, Gordon’s, Hendrick’s and, one new to me, Bulldog. Want vodkas? The home-grown range here include infusions of apricot mint, chocolate mint, beetroot (not my favourite, too bitter), and orange peel with rosemary.
With whatever, order a tasting plate of Piggy Bits, in this case slices of venison and pork sausage roll, pork crackling strips with home-made applesauce, and quail-egg ‘hockeggs’, coated in pork sausage-meat and served with Coleman’s (mustard) dressing. The main bar is set between two windows which have shelves in front. These are filled with an assortment of flea-market glasses, some coloured, which produce a fascinating kaleidoscope of light as the sun shines in. This bar flows, on into other reception rooms, with really comfy throw-yourself-at-‘em leather seating, and big log fires. In summer, flow the other way, out to the terrace.
Of course you have made a reservation for dinner in the Conservatory, where you can sit in the glass part, or further in, or, when the weather allows, outside. I love the menu, a simple orange A3-sized card, with a map on the rear showing distance from suppliers – this is primarily a 25-mile menu. Start with a garden mint and asparagus soup, with garden herb croutons. Go on to the best-selling ‘extraordinary’ Bath chap. Now I remember Bath chap being the pig cheek cooked and de-boned, rolled in bright yellow bread crumbs and thinly sliced, cold. Here, thanks to Ruby & White Butchers (19 miles to the north) you get the entire cheek, on the bone, with more crackling than you can imagine, the delicious glutinous meat under and, of course, more home-made applesauce.
There was no space, sadly, for desserts, say The Pig’s apple pie with Somerset brandy and walnut icecream, or rhubarb mousse with Ivy House farm buttermilk sorbet. The marathon eaters then finish, not with petits fours but piggy fours. Actually the continual play on words does not annoy as it is, just, not overdone. And then it is time for bed, to read one of the fabulous books in room 18, perhaps Alexander Solzhenitsyn‘s August 1914, or one of the modern tomes from the National Trust, on Bee-keeping, Hen-keeping, and, of course, Pig-keeping. The windows open, which German visitors love, and I sleep like a log. In the morning, I am back down in the Conservatory, for breakfast and today’s newspapers, both ready by seven.
Oh what a buffet this luxury hotel offers. It is set out on a central and side tables – here, by the breads, there are DeLonghi designer toasters (remember, The Pigs are retro meets Rodeo Drive). There is also a boil-your-own-eggs facility. Pop eggs, laid by the hotel’s own chicken, into a wire basket distinguished by its black, blue or another colour handle. Put the basket into a deep pool of boiling water and turn a three-part egg-timer that alerts you after three minutes (soft), 4.5 minutes (medium) or six minutes (hard-boiled). Yes, you can actually make ‘soldiers’ fingers of buttered toast, or bread, to dip into your boiled egg… of course, being a Pig, you also have amazing fruits, yoghurts, cereals, so much, all this for £10. If you must have another cooked dish, add £5, or if you just want kippers and coffee, it is £8 total. Clever, but then the whole of The Pig Near Bath is – spot-on for today’s unpretentious luxury.
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