Carole Hamilton visits the latest addition to the Pig family in her home county of Kent
I live in a sleepy Kent village and am loving the reputation our fabulous county is gaining as a foodie destination. Thanks to the likes of Stephen Harris at The Sportsman (Whitstable), Will Devlin at The Smallholding (Cranbrook), Graham Garrett at The West House (Biddenden) and Daniel Smith at The Fordwich Arms (Canterbury) and of course, the amazing produce that Kent has to offer, enjoying great food close to home has never been easier. And now we have a Pig too!
I am, of course, referring to The Pig hotel group who so cleverly create boltholes for the food-obsessed looking for a laidback country retreat. And apparently nearly 4000 of them pre-booked rooms before the hotel even opened last month which is pretty impressive. The latest hotel, this is Piggy number six, is set in five acres of beautiful countryside in the pretty village of Bridge, 10 minutes drive from Canterbury. St Pancras is just 55 minutes on the train.
The glorious Grade II listed mansion was a private home until a couple of years ago and during the 60’s and 70’s was a hotspot for Londoners who came to listen to bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Kinks and Pink Floyd. If walls could talk there would definitely be some fabulous tales to tell about its rock ‘n’ roll past.
Décor is sultry with lots of maroon and navy and soft lighting and the many cosy snugs invite you to curl up with a good book, perhaps accompanied by a slice of the melt-in-the-mouth lemon drizzle or chocolate and orange cake sitting temptingly on the sideboard.
The hotel has a range of bedrooms from rooms in the main house, two with gold painted four-posters and cherubs on the ceiling (Marianne Faithful meets Anita Pallenberg with a dash of Biba is how co-owner and design guru Judy Hutson describes them) to the seven new and very romantic hop pickers’ huts overlooking the river Nailbourne. The Barn is a two-storey wood-panelled dream complete with wood burning stove and all the comforts of home (and some!)
A wander around the kitchen garden is a must before dinner where you will see many of the huge range of ingredients put to such good use on the menu. The garden also boasts a wood-fired oven for serving al-fresco pizzas and flatbreads at rustic wooden tables if you’re feeling peckish.
The Pig loves food (obviously) but it’s not a fine dining affair, this is much more about celebrating local and the unparalleled produce to be found mostly within 25 miles of the front door. Whitstable oysters, Romney Marsh lamb, Sandwich Bay mackerel and Folkestone cockles and of course, the fabulous array of wine, beer and artisan gins all being created in Kent.
Start with some Piggy Bits, crackling & apple sauce or Fishy Bits, crab paste soldiers to tempt the taste buds. Starters include such delights as pulled beef rib hash with a fresh hen’s egg and zero-mile mushrooms on toast. Mains such as pan-fried Dungeness Huss, South East Coast fish stew and pan fried Hersden Farm venison – you get the picture. Local, fresh and well cooked, my idea of good food. The dining room is relaxed and noisy and the open kitchen offers a great view of the team whipping up your dinner.
I’ve visited three of the other piggies in Hampshire and loved them all but I have a soft spot for their latest addition and delighted to welcome them to Kent. It’s only twenty minutes from my front door so safe to say, we will be back, often!
The Pig at Bridge Place, Bridge, Canterbury, CT4 5LF, Rooms from £140