Signature to The Pig Hotel brand, the sixth opening from British hotelier Robin Hutson couples rustic charm with rock 'n' roll spirit
30 July 2019
There can’t be a lovelier place to while away a Tuesday afternoon, I think, as I sit in the sun, a tranquil stream trickling past, fringed with tufts of foliage in vivid green, and shaded by a glorious weeping willow having a trim. When a truffle-snufflingly good array of Piggy Bits arrives, which turns out to be merely the pre-starter in a meal fit for a queen, I am certain of it.
It feels like a world away from London, even though the train from St Pancras to nearby Canterbury only takes 56 minutes. The 15-minute taxi journey through the pretty, historic town to the village of Bridge allows further decompression, although I sit upright as we turn down a tree-lined drive, wildflowers swaying among the grasses, to come face to face with an impressive red brick manor house (I discover, later that day, dated to about 1625 – “depending on who you talk to”).
Outside it feels like the warm summer day it is but as I’m early for my pre-lunch massage, I take the chance to wander around inside, where there’s a more autumnal feel. Lounge areas boast emerald green velvet sofas and rugs that look significantly older than even the oldest Pig (a sprightly eight-years-old). A cosy atmosphere, despite a fresh breeze from wide-open windows, comes thanks to low-beamed ceilings, wooden panelling, huge stone fireplaces and log baskets.
I definitely don’t feel stuck in the 17th century though – Alright by Supergrass is playing, Hunter wellies are all lined up ready for use on wetter days and staff stay cool in pink shirts, jeans and Converse. I particularly love the bar, where a jewel-coloured assortment of cocktail glasses are lit up by the midday sun streaming through windows, and old menus are cut up into coasters. Pots from the garden are used as table decorations and a phalanx of Chase Vodka bottles have been given homemade twists – Purple Basil, Black Sage, Ginger Rosemary.
I’m (willingly) lured away by one of the Potting Shed therapists for a massage. I could have chosen from eight enticing options, including two Bamford treatments, and the one I do opt for is relaxing, rejuvenating, and appetite-inducing, it turns out. My dining companion and I settle into a long, lazy lunch outside at the Coach House restaurant, which is packed on a weekday lunchtime, despite this Pig – the sixth in the ever more popular litter – having only opened here recently.
Its menu declares “an obsessive commitment” to homegrown and local produce, and every friendly member of staff sings from the same hymn sheet, full of information and enthusiasm. The 25 Mile Menu is testament to this, featuring a local map of suppliers replete with names that sound to me like they’ve come straight from the pages of The Hobbit; Kentish Pip for apples, Long Land Farm (chickens) and Mighty Fine Things (liqueurs and sauces).
It would be easier to list what we didn’t eat, so heavy was our table with plates and bowls (channelling our inner Hobbits, perhaps), but highlights include peppers and tangy harissa mayo, tomatoes and asparagus so fresh they might have been picked that very morning, and a hearty beef featherblade steak – definitely not a predictable choice on a hot afternoon but nonetheless an excellent one. Ingredients on the menu are accompanied by words like ‘crispy’, ‘oak-smoked’, ‘thrice-cooked’ and a number of other adjectives pressed into service to convey that you really should come hungry. Take your time, and don’t skip pudding; we find space for fresh, juicy raspberries with meringue and cream, and strawberry buttermilk blancmange.
Our table overlooks the stream, which weaves its way through blooming gardens tended to by gardeners as busy as bees in a hive. I find out these industrious workers have planted more than 1,000 trees, herbs and plants since The Pig team took over the site, and that doesn’t surprise me. They've infused this beautiful setting with the magic of a secret garden of some kind, so relaxed am I after only a few hours.
Our post-meal stupor must come to an end, though, and we take in the breadth of this Pig’s offering on a tour of the grounds. It’s the ideal size for a bucolic boutique bolthole of this sort – 30 rooms across a range of categories. The piglets of the litter are Extremely Small (a most honest appraisal if ever there was one) and Snug, through Comfy, Comfy Luxe and Big Comfy Luxe to the most luxurious hideaways - the Hop Picker huts, Barn and Lodge (best for families). Every one we see is comfortingly and comfortably kitted out – big beds, plump pillows, wooden headboards, and neutral, natural hues of moss green and charcoal grey and inky plum.
I didn’t even stay overnight and I still managed to fall in love with this little Piggy. If you go down to the woods of Bridge today, you’ll find chicken, sheep, quail and, of course, a Pig that will win you over with its effortless, thoughful, countryside charm.
The Pig at Bridge Place, Bourne Park Road, Canterbury, CT4 5LF mrandmrssmith.com