There aren’t many of my friends that haven’t heard about The Pig Hotel in Hampshire’s beautiful New Forest. It’s one of those rare hotels that combines pure gorgeousness with feeling like a home from home, so when I was invited along for lunch and a nosy around their new sister hotel, The Pig in the Wall in Southampton, I jumped at the chance.
The Pig itself is a wonderful venture in home grown quality set in the glorious countryside of the New Forest. Their Kitchen Garden is a marvel to behold:
They have their own smoking room for meats and fish, which they either serve up in the restaurant or swap with the local butcher for other cuts of meat.
They grow their own herbs, vegetables, and salads – everything from the everyday tomatoes, kale, artichokes and lemon thyme, to foraging ingredients like sorrel, brilliantly named greens like monk’s beard, white alpine strawberries, and edible flowers. Their lovely team of foragers and gardeners take good care of everything.
Obviously, given the name, they rear their own pigs too. They also have quails and chickens for eggs.
Over the course of the year they range in self-sufficiency, but at its best they’re about 70%. You really feel like they’ve put their heart and soul into creating a beautiful, living menu.
They also offer massages in the beautifully remote potting shed.
Their interiors are shabby chic, with comfy chairs everywhere you look and lots of nice, homely smells and crumbly bricks. The Greenhouse dining room is gorgeous – airy, bright, with an atmosphere that’s the right balance between part of a group of diners and having your own little space.
We started with a selection of their cocktails. Many of their list are their own recipes, and nearly all include at least one ingredient from the Kitchen Garden, so the whole selection was fresh, zesty, fruity and deceivingly healthy-tasting, despite the generous portions of sauce they contain. They change with the seasons, but we particularly liked The Farmer’s Chase, a refreshing blend of vodka, elderflower, apple juice, fresh lemon and bitter lemon.
Their menu (which unsurprisingly changes daily to incorporate their seasonal, available produce) is surprisingly long. There’s lots on offer (and yes, a lot of it is pork-based – well, you’d hope so, wouldn’t you?!) We started with some little “Piggy Bits” (£3.50 each) including crackling and apple sauce, delicious chipolatas with spicy onions, and mini scotch eggs that were so tasty and wholesome they converted me after a lifelong hatred of them.
Starters begin from just a fiver and – unsurprisingly, given how tempting they are – all can be converted into a main course too (in fact, a pleasingly flexible number of their mains can also be ordered in starter-form). Highlights in our group included New Forest Asparagus with poached duck egg, garden fritters and smoked chilli mayo, and home smoked Glenarm salmon with pickled cucumber, watercress and cider dressing.
I, however, was tempted by their Weekly Specials section, in particular the Portland Crab with mustard, tarragon, herb breadcrumbs and chopped egg. It was like all of my favourite things, so I asked if I could have it in starter form. “Of course” was the reply, and they proceeded to bring me an entire bloody crab:
How lucky was I? Clearly, eating at The Pig turns you into one, because I unashamedly scoffed the lot. It was an absolutely irresistible treat – meaty, fresh, with a perfect balance between the strong flavour of the crab and the hearty, flavoursome herb crumbs and egg.
Their mains list is equally tempting (particularly good choices include scallops with streaky bacon, rump of lamb with artichoke crisps, and the “extraordinary” bath chap on a board) but I simply had to sample some of their homegrown livestock, so I went for the fennel roasted fillet of pork.
It was absolutely stunning – the fillet was as tender as I’ve had it, and beautifully flavoured with the fennel and a gorgeous medium-heat mustard sauce. The accompanying apple mash and garden greens were exquisitely fresh and balanced well with the indulgent cut of meat.
We enjoyed some of their house white and red wine with dinner (a lovely Vin de Pays and an Italian blend respectively), both of which were affordable without being too cheap, but their wine list is not for the faint-hearted! It’s a double-sided A3 sheet each for red and white, listing approximately 200 wines from all the recognisable names as well as from normally underrepresented countries as diverse as Armenia, Turkey, Sicily, Hungary, and even England! Not only is it a wine-lover’s wet dream, it’s split into helpful sections for people who might be more nervous about wine choices (plus the staff were so friendly and knowledgeable, I’m sure they’d be happy to give helpful advice.)
Their rooms start at around £129 a night, and follow the cosy, tasteful, I-never-want-to-leave theme. If you’re looking for something less remote and more central to Southampton, The Pig in the Wall is equally charming, and the rooms start from slightly less although just as comfy.
I loved the attention to detail: from colourful mosaic tiled floors in the bathing areas, to adorable vintage radios and tasteful selections of reading materials like the art of keeping chickens or foraging for wild food.
I thought I’d never be tempted out of my room until I saw the plate of cake in the warm lounge area:
I especially loved the lemon and poppyseed slice, and would gladly have eaten all six slices had I not been in polite company.
This place really does have everything I could possibly want. Whether you’re a country queen or city sweetheart, I highly recommend a trip to one of The Pig’s hotels for an unforgettable, effortless stay. And don’t worry if you prefer a bit of seaside: The Pig on the Beach is opening in Dorset this year…