I am what you call a city girl. I love London. I like the idea of tottering out of my apartment in the morning, half-awake, to find a mean cappuccino within a 50 meter radius. I
want need a choice of at least 5 or 6 good great restaurants at stiletto-walking distance from my sofa.
But sometimes I crave a short break from the never ending vortex of action in the capital. The New Forest, with its fresh air, wide open spaces and woods, is the best antidote to this feeling.
Last week, I was invited to have lunch, with a group of fellow foodies, in the heart of the New Forest, in the fabulous setting of the PIG, a contemporary and shabby chic, yet incredibly homely, country hotel.
In a nutshell, the PIG is a restaurant with rooms, since their focus is very much on the uncomplicated and locally sourced British menu, created by Head Chef James Golding (ex Soho House NYC).
Before sampling James’s delicacies, we were so lucky to be given a guided tour of their spectacular walled garden, the PIG’s tread-mark.
Here forager Garry Everleigh and his team grow most of the PIG’s unusual fruit a vegetable ingredients; and if they cannot grow it, they source it within 25 miles.
Back into the cosy main building, which dates back to the 17th century, being the nosy one that I am, I took a sneaky look around the communal areas, full of comfy chairs, big sofas and roaring fires.
Pretty soon we were shown to our bare-wood table in the spectacular Victorian greenhouse dining room.
The table setting is really quirky, with a touch of bohemian design, mismatched bone handled cutleries and colourful glasses.
Being a bunch of greedy foodies, we ordered a selection of pig-based starters, including some incredible pig crackling and apple sauce, delicious mini duck eggs with bacon, sausage and mustard, some air-dried ham and Dorset olives, and last but not least, delicious caramelised devils on Horseback and cider dressing.
My main was the heavenly Hand Dived Lyme Bay Scallops and Streaky Bacon, served on a bed of cauliflower puree, Atlantic Prawns and Crispy Purslane.
Other fellow guests ordered the majestic Pig’s slow roasted bath chap served on a board with roasted squash salad and apple sauce, and the deliciously fresh Garden Rocket and Hampshire Salami Risotto with Old Winchester Cheese and Garden rosemary oil.
We also ordered a selection of sides, including the fabulous crispy tobacco onions, and some incredibly tasty buttered garden greens.
Our lunch was washed down by a selection of amazing cocktails, crafted by the PIG’s in-house mixologist. Here you can see him at the bar where he works his magic with his home-infused vodkas.
I didn’t order a dessert, but the PIG’s puddings menu is to die for. My pick is the decadent Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Ganache pot with hazelnut brittle and hazelnut shortbread. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, the PIG’s local artisan cheeseboard is pretty tempting; served with home-made chutney, candied garden figs and grapes.
In the afternoon, before getting back to London, we took a little detour, to visit the PIG’s little sibling in Southampton, the PIG in the wall, located within the historic medieval walls by the waterfront.
This little piglet is a comfy B&B, and a cosy café to pop in for a coffee and a cake. My pick: the delicious lemon cake.
But, what is even more exciting is the opening of The PIG on the beach in Summer 2013, a unique and slightly eccentric hotel, with a kitchen garden of home-grown produce, surrounded by farmland that borders the coastal path. I cannot wait to check this place out! So, if you are looking for a day-trip inspiration or perhaps a weekend gate-away the PIG is your destination, amazing scenery, incredible food, and cocktails to die for.