As always, Girlhead ate splendidly at The PIG in the South Downs (above), where the 25-Mile Menu was able to encompass the English countryside as well as the sea. Take dinner, which started with nibbles that included narrow strips of pork crackling with apple sauce, and the chef’s own-bottled preserved veggies. The main meal began, from the Garden, Greenhouse & Polytunnel section, with cubes of two-colours of beetroot cubes, flavoured with lemon thyme, served with Golden Cross goat’s cheese (34 miles away) and a horseradish cream.
Next came thoughts of the past. The word faggot has several connotations, including gay, and kindling. In culinary terms it was an English Midlands dish using left-over meats, including offal. Well, with Madehurst lamb and pork (both under five miles) used for The PIG’s faggot, who could refuse? A Brazilian steak knife, by Tramontina, was brought but really not needed. The dish came with horseradish mash and braised Hispi, or sweetheart, cabbage, and to add what she considers a green necessity to a dinner dish, Girlahead added a side of steamed broccoli. The finishing touch, home-made lemon-thyme sorbet, provided a year’s supply of sugar before the end of this first month. Add to all this, of course, The PIG’s always-fresh warm bread slices, with butter or herbed olive oil. And, from the extensive A3-sized wine list, tonight it was an English Pinot Noir, from Simpsons at Railway Hill in Kent, 2020. Nice to see that Kent, Essex share a section, here, along with Archetypal, Big & Little (halves, magnums, jeroboams), Blockbusters, Curiosities (Austria, Tenerife et al), Rockstars. The most expensive English red is a 2018 Octagon Block, from the Bunker family’s Danbury Ridge vineyard in Essex.
Gracie’s Shed, one of 30 ‘rooms’ here at The PIG in the South Downs, deserves more than a passing mention. This was one-time stable for Gracie, presumably the family pony for what was David Tod’s Madehurst Lodge before the conversion to a hotel. Girlahead, who has not previously bunkered down in equestrian lodging, must admit that Gracie’s Shed makes an extremely comfortable, and totally memorable stay. With about 48sq m of main room and 12sq m of bathroom, all completely lined in upcycled wood planks, it is a lovely theatre for a solo performer. Outstanding Wifi and over a dozen USB ports – with each electric socket – shows new-look luxury. Bramley toiletries are now in horrid ceramic pots that are reluctant to pump out contents but everything else, including right-height safe and KitchenAid espresso machine, was really easy to operate. The freestand tub, its base the same avocado as the brand’s waffle robes, and the main door, immediately gushed really hot water, as did the rainforest shower.
Some domestic hotel guests, in whatever country, require electric charging points and here there seemed to be plenty. Before dawn, thanks to Gracie’s alarm clock and Roberts radio, Girlahead was up and out, with her own extra-strong torch. Explore tae countryside in the dark? Well, not exactly but owls were howling aplenty, and it was great pre-prandial exercise. Sure enough the smaller of The Restaurant’s two rooms is now a dedicated buffet, sorry Breakfast Table, space. As well as the expected real and vegan butters and yoghurts, there were some new-to-yous. Willy’s therapeutic Live Apple Cider Vinegar, say the one flavoured with garlic, ginger, horseradish and turmeric, must do wonders for the gut. What are griffin buns? Apparently a French oatmeal alternative to croissant (not so successful, by the way, are poached eggs with smashed peas rather than avocado but Girlahead did try, once but never again).
Coffee, in a Le Creuset cafetière, came fast, and strong. Smiles everywhere, even at just-dawn, indicated a happy team – and if everyone else in this full 30-roomer was as happy as Girlahead, they too would be smiling, and making the next reservation.
Now tour Gracie’s Shed, below: