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SOME PIG KATE WEIR GOES ‘W HE E , W HE E , W HE E ’ ON CHE C KI N G I N T O B R I L L I A N T B O U TI Q U E STAY TH E P I G N EA R B ATH .

Contrary to the sarcastic idiom, I’ve found some pigs who really do fly… Yes, master hotelier Robin Hutson (former owner of the Hotel Du Vin group) has seen phenomenal success with the Pig hotels, a group of stays in British beauty spots with refined rustic style and an impressive commitment to dining locally (around 80 per cent of the kitchen’s menu is sourced within 25km of the hotel, if not harvested from the back garden). The original piggy was built in the New Forest, followed by outposts in Hampshire, Dorset, Combe and Kent (with Cornwall’s The Pig at Harlyn Bay due in 2020 and The Pig in Sussex Downs coming in 2021). I’ve come to their Somerset stay, The Pig Near Bath (a 20-minute drive from the Regency-darling city), to see what all the squealing is about. With chock-a-block bookings for months at a time (it would be a cracker for Christmas, but you’d need to secure a room in summertime); a fiercely loyal fanbase and glowing reports from anyone who’s been (or equally, envious waxing from those who haven’t). We have an extremely comfortable journey to the West Country, plied with snack boxes and copious cups of tea in the cushioning seats of Great Western Railway’s First-Class cabin (a journey of around 90 minutes). This little Pig has the luxury of acres of land – allowing for a flourishing kitchen garden and space for a deer park and working farm. We spy majestic antlered stags on the approach, and then the equally charming main house comes into view, where two stone porkers stand sentry by the door. You enter past rows of Hunter wellies, arriving in a delightfully creaky hallway furnished with squashy well-sat-in sofas, filled bookshelves and a grand piano with inviting sheets of music on top. This little piggy already feels very much like home… TH E STAY All Pig hotels have been furnished by the aesthetically talented Judy Hutson (Robin’s wife). She’s erred away from try-hard country hipness for a more classic rustic look: taxidermied fish and birds hang on the walls, all sofas and armchairs are sink-into soft, rugs are worn yet chic. There’s a luxe-yet-lived-in feel throughout. Sprigs of herbs or garden cuttings in earthenware pots adorn nearly every table. Our bedroom has a vast wooden pencil-post bed, freestanding bath tub and heirloom trinkets. Light streams in through lace curtains – it’s an ideal country bolthole. We’re told that singleuse plastics have been removed to make the space more ecofriendly (fine by us) but there are still little indulgences to be had. For example, the extremely generous minibar-cum-larder, with soft and hard drinks – a few local – and intriguing gourmet snacks: Portlebay popcorn, Mr Filbert’s rosemary almonds, Brown Bag crisps… TH E FOOD Food is truly at the heart of the Pig’s ethos. On a tour of the vast kitchen gardens we’re shown a wall of spreadsheets: the result of an annual meeting of Pig gardeners, rigorously planning the years’ produce. It’s in abundant supply: there are greenhouses where chillis have been enticed to grow, mushrooms blooming off grow bags in a dedicated cabin, mint growing wild with varietals, runs of

STAGS ON THE APPROACH, AND

THEN THE EQUALLY CHARMING

MAIN HOUSE COMES INTO VIEW, STAND SENTRY BY THE DOOR.’

KENSINGTON & CHELSEA REVIEW

WH AT T O D O WH I L E YO U ’ R E T H ER E Wandering around the farm and grounds will take up a good chunk of your day – watch as the deer majestically gallop over the fields, pet the pigs, cluck at the chickens, and watch out for the bees in the apiary. There’s a small spa if you’re very committed to downtime, or you could just pick up a book or board game and settle in the library – it really does feel like your own home. In a handsomely wood-panelled room, a huge snooker table makes for a more challenging game. To ease our struggle, the bartender brings us a new cocktail he’s working on to try and then a couple bottles of potent local cider. Ask at reception and they’ll hand out maps for country rambles – one that takes you past a nearby fishing pond and riding school, one that takes you into the local village of Compton, where there’s a welcoming inn. But, this is a restorative hideaway, ideal for quiet meditation and communing with nature. Yes, it’s a verdant lure for work-weary Londoners, but its roots are firmly dug into the ground. The staff work hard and passionately, yet remain impeccably polite and warm, the garden and kitchen and bar work in a seamless tangent, driven by the changing seasons, and the only disturbance the rooms endure is the distant screech of an owl seeking prey. It’s all rather dreamy – and this little Pig fan truly feels like she’s come home. Our writer stayed as a guest of The Pig Near Bath. See www. thepighotel.com/near-bath for more information and to book.

‘WE SPY MAJESTIC ANTLERED

WHERE TWO STONE PORKERS

berry hedges, herb beds, an orchard, vegetable patches supporting everything from cavolo nero to purple sprouts. Polytunnels protect promising green shoots; contented chickens and quail lay eggs and a drove of plump and pink oinkers are marked out for meat (potbellied pets Lola and Truffle have been spared the abattoir) – there are abundant veggie dishes to choose from if that’s a little too real for you… The most joyous thing about dining and drinking here is a pervading sense of authenticity; barkeeps make their own spirits and liqueurs using spoils from the grounds and they encourage you to open the bottles for a whiff (I’m cautioned off the kale vodka, but the grapefruit and mint vodka is delicious). At breakfast there are freshly laid eggs and baked breads, apricots stewed with rosemary, raspberries with vanilla and a menu of hot dishes (the full-English is a paean to local produce). Tiers of cakes are laid out if you get peckish (we spied fig cake with orange buttercream and lemon with vanilla icing, but it changes daily) And we didn’t take lunch at the hotel, choosing instead to graze on the hotel’s nibbly bits: flavourful pork crackling with apple sauce, fish balls, a rich roe dip with crackers. It’s just as well that we don’t pig out too much, because dinner is of Herculean proportions. Fall-apart lamb belly comes with a fruity glaze, cauliflower and cheese tart has just the right kick of sharpness. The fillet steak is pliant and exactly done, while my Tomahawk pork chop is a beast of a thing that’s trying to escape the plate. Even the waitress looks somewhat rattled by this monster – the meat is delicious and tender, but I fall at the seventh mouthful and the rest is put in the fridge (if I want to take it home). Dessert is an impossibility afterwards, but I do make room for some excellent local cheese. There’s a sense of pride in the cooking that’s embedded deeper than the turnips and squashes – and justly so.

Travel was supported by Great Western Railway. On 15 December GWR will introduce the biggest timetable change since 1976, bringing faster, more frequent services. Around three quarters of journey times will be different as new services are added and old ones changed for the better. Please note: trains will arrive and depart at different times. There will be more trains and seats but train times may differ. Trains won’t always stop at the stations they do today. Journeys will be faster, but new services won’t always stop at the places frequent travellers might be used to. You can create your own personalised timetable to download and keep: https://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/service/pockettimetable/search.

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Profile for Kensington and Chelsea Review

Christmas 2019 Edition  

The Fa La La La La issue. Including festive ideas for food and wine, travel and our glorious and rather popular annual Christmas gift guid...

Christmas 2019 Edition  

The Fa La La La La issue. Including festive ideas for food and wine, travel and our glorious and rather popular annual Christmas gift guid...

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