Sunday, 17 June 2012

Gettin' Piggy With It

It's taken me forever to write up this post. Perhaps I thought that my excitement for this brilliant bolt-hole would decrease, and thus I'd be able to edit my lyrical waxings. Alas not. It has been two months father, and I am still completely head over heels in love with The Pig in Brockenhurst. From the tucked-away location ten minutes drive from the train station, to the jaw dropping approach to the main house (think The Bennett’s house in Pride and Prejudice which may have been lowly in those times but is princely in ours…), this hotel packs a prodigious punch.

Yet for all its stately chandeliers and plump pillows, there is something delightfully shabby about this place. Like a well starched matron with a twinkle in her eye, The Pig manages to be practically perfect whilst maintaining a strong sense of humour. Take, for example, its porky touches – a pig-printed curtain here, two trottered-up welcome biscuits there - not to mention the huge iron hog welcoming guests up the meandering driveway...

Having booked a ‘snug room’ through a deal on Mr & Mrs Smith (£130 per night and a free bottle of olive oil), our socks were rather knocked off by our room. Housed in the old stable, it was far from ‘snug’ with huge bathroom with clawed-stand alone bath and walk-in rain shower. Everything was decorated simply, an elegant splash of sage, a vintage radio in mint, a pair of plump grey armchairs, a collection of colourful National Trust books tucked away in the corner. Most exciting was the free parts of the larder - complimentary nespresso machine and lots of lovely pig company tea bags – but maybe that’s just because I’m a sucker for a pre-dinner hot drink on the balcony (we didn’t actually have a balcony, but two lovely chairs in the niftily planted communal centre space of the stable blocks).

Once we got bored of tea sipping, bed jumping and turning the rain shower on and off, we took a tour of the grounds. Though not extensive by any means, the outside areas are equally delightful, from the walled vegetable garden, green houses thick with the scent of herbs to the pond complete with spa shed and pig pen (for the real life animals). It was also rather jolly to throw ourselves back and forth on the ‘swing’ (rope and a huge plank of wood tied to a humungous tree), before scuttling back to our room to bathe and dress for cocktail hour…

Sipping a perfectly mixed cocktail (of which I forget the name) in the ridiculously lovely yet somehow homely bar, it became even more evident why this place is so darn popular (practically booked out for summer already). I know I've already been a massive detail geek, but I shall point out a few more… the cocktail menu clipped into a National Trust book entitled 'Pig Keeping', cheerfully mismatched glasses in bright colours, terracotta pots of herbs replacing flowers on tables.

More details at dinner in the conservatory… trailing plants, mini salt and paper pots, a jauntily tiled floor and waiters so genuinely friendly we wanted to give them a tip before they'd even handed us menus. With thoughts of fitting in breakfast and lunch the next day, we skipped starters. I opted for fish with cockles and some kind of sea weed (again I forget which and the menu changes so regularly this particular dish is long gone from the website); he had pork belly (he always has pork belly). Mine was not only the right side of undercooked and utterly delicious, but looked good too. I also managed to coax a slice of pork which was fantastic… the meat no doubt from a local farm and treated as it should, salted up right nice and cooked into a melting tangle of flesh and fat. Food was accompanied by a very good bottle of wine and followed by a couple more cocktails in the bar. 

Day two went like this… eating, walk, eating.

The morning spread (again the conservatory) was even more impressive than dinner. We ordered two cooked breakfasts (thick cut proper bacon with rind, fat herby sausages, black and white pudding, creamy eggs and roasted tomatoes), and were left to roam the buffet whilst we waited. Piles of fluffy pastries, bowls of local yoghurt, home made granola, two types of honey, milk in big glass bottles, mismatched jugs of fresh juice, bread still warm from the oven… it was enough to ruin a girl forever.

I still get a little bit excited when I think about that treat-laden table.

Lunch a few hours later (after a brisk gamble through the woods in a futile attempt to elicit hunger) was an understandably lighter affair, mostly sticking to the small-plated 'Piggy Bits'. Again, nothing to fault - chucks of crispy belly sticky with honey and mustard, pork and herb filled pancakes, thick slices of chorizo singing with paprika and probably more (all lost in 24 hours of meat consumption).

After filling our bags with mini bottles of shampoo and making sure we'd liberated the larder of any remaining Tea Pigs, we waved goodbye to our heady stay with heavy hearts; and even heavier stomachs… 

The Pig
Beaulieu Rd
SO42 7QL

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