Saturday, 13 April 2013


The well-heeled of West London are slipping off their loafers and Louboutins and pulling on Hunters and Barbours.  They have cancelled this week's Riverford Organic box, and are heading down the M3 to the New Forest, drawn by the comfortable beds and "25-mile menu" at The Pig.  This menu is not only resolutely English: all its ingredients are sustainable, organic and sourced from within that eponymous radius, which helpfully includes a chunk of Hampshire coastline (which is perhaps how "Cornish" mussels sneak in alongside the sparklingly fresh hake and scallops). 
While nothing travels more than twenty five miles, some produce actually comes from very close to home: the organic walled garden and greenhouses are busy and productive even in a cold February. We meet one young chef crouching in a hedge row near the house: "I'm collecting wild sorrel" he mutters through chattering teeth.  Sure enough, the anonymous, small green leaves, well-hidden in the frosty grass, taste sharp and lemony and will add freshness to our salad this evening.

Then there are the free range hens and quail on site, and all the other resources waiting to be collected among the trees and on the heaths nearby. The New Forest is not unlike Spain, with fine pork raised in woodlands, so "the piggy bits", as the menu describes them, also play a large role.  The Pig makes its own lardo and benefits from the smokehouse at its sister hotel just outside Brockenhurst, The Lime Wood.
So it is that rare place, where the patrons travel further than the produce.  In these days of horse burgers and all-the-year-round green beans with passports and air-miles, no wonder the car park here is full of Mercedes, BMWs and Audis.
The dining area itself is as no nonsense and practical as the kitchen and garden: a simple, attractive, country-style glass extension, designed to display the food and views to their best advantage.  It echoes the greenhouse and is full of earthenware pots of thyme, scented geranium, mint, bay and chard, all of which will find their way onto the plates sooner or later.

The house itself, on the site of an old royal hunting lodge, has been fashioned into a faux-rustic, stylish and very comfortable 26 bed hotel.  From the doorway, guarded by two giant stone dogs, you can ride bikes along forest cycle tracks, walk for miles among ponies and deer. Or just while away time strolling in the parkland or admiring the walled garden.  Or even go foraging for sorrel in the hedgerows.

Alternatively, take a good book or newspaper and claim a comfortable sofa in front of a log fire or wood burner in one of the lounges or the bar.  While away the time: digest, relax; watch the sun go down or the foragers returning muddied but triumphant; and perhaps order a cocktail or two before dinner.

1 comment:

  1. love the ethos of this place and what they do. food looks like the way food should be, simple, made from scratch, with love. will love to check this out if I ever get a chance to pop by the area!