#STFFonTour in the New Forest – The Pig

23rd May 2013
Since arriving in the UK 14 years ago, The Better Half (TBH) and I have not done much travelling within the United Kingdom and none at all within England itself. Mostly because the weather can be pretty rubbish here, so we escape to sunnier shores for our annual dose of Vitamin D. Also, with Europe on our doorstep and some fantastic deals to be had out there, it just seems to make more sense to us to explore this world we live in. Having said that though, when an opportunity arose to visit the New Forest, we jumped at the chance. It’s high time we got to see more of this beautiful country!
 
The Pig is situated in the town of Brockenhurst, just 1 hour and 45 minutes by train from London Waterloo.  It calls itself a “restaurant with rooms” and takes pride in the fact that all their food is sourced from the grounds itself or within a 25 mile radius of the hotel. The menu changes not by the day but by the minute, depending on what the forager finds that day!  Truly exciting stuff. You couldn’t get more “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants”than that! (Garry, the forager and head chef James Golding, recently featured in Caroline Quentin’s program on ITV about National Parks).  The kitchen garden is absolutely beautiful and the shrubbery around the rooms are all fresh herbs, so leaving your room each day is a wonderful attack on the senses – fresh thyme, sage and rosemary all around you! The restaurant recently won an award for the most sustainable kitchen in Britain and it’s easy to see why when you see the produce available to them on their doorstep.

 

Arriving just after lunch time on Friday afternoon, the restaurant was absolutely buzzing. Walking through to the reception desk, I noticed that the separate bar, lounge and library were busy too! This was a good sign.  After checking in, we ensconced ourselves in the lounge for the remainder of the afternoon and supped on local Laverstock Lager and cocktail special for the week called Bog Myrtle. Delicious even though in South African slang bog = toilet!  I am a City girl at heart, but I felt so comfortable on those sofas in front of the roaring fire (how much more clichéd can you get?) that I could’ve happily stayed in that position all weekend! Alas, dinner beckoned.

 

The restaurant is just off the main hallway and it’s been extended so that part of it is in a gorgeous glasshouse that just floods light into the room. Unfortunately on our first night, we were seated in the old part of the restaurant and it was so dark that my pictures didn’t come out very well. Sorry about that! 

The menu kicks off with “Piggy bits” (all £3.50) and we decided to order a selection of these instead of a starter each. First up, we had Chipolatas with spiced caramelised onions. The tiny little sausages were packed full of flavour and just the right amount of fat to make them juicy. The caramelised onions had been cooked long and slow and were perfectly sweet. We also ordered pork belly with spiced honey. This was probably my least favourite of what we ordered. The fat hadn’t been rendered enough and instead of melting in your mouth, the texture of the meat became chewy. Neither of us like aniseed flavours (too many bad sambuca experiences!!), so the bed of fennel it sat on was tried, but most of it left on the plate. The black pudding fritters were a winner, I just wish they were bigger! Finally, we had Pullet eggs with smoked ham. The smoked ham was delicious, but as my regular readers will know I have a thing for runny egg yolks and these were a little too hard for me.
For my main, I ordered Roast South Coast Pollock served with forced sea kale, nettles and a pumpkin seed salsa verde (£16.50). With the sustainability of cod such a huge problem now, it is a wonder that more restaurants don’t have Pollock on their menu. It is a meaty fish that is so similar in taste and texture to cod, that I bet a lot of people wouldn’t even know the difference! The fish was beautiful but could’ve done with a crispier skin. The accompaniments I found bitter and the forced sea kale was a bit tough. I didn’t really enjoy them too much. 
TBH ordered the T-Bone steak served with stuffed bone marrow, triple cooked chips and a béarnaise sauce (£26.00).  T-Bone steak is a cut of meat that you don’t see on very many menus in the UK, but is generally always found on menus in South Africa. It is part sirloin and part fillet steak, so you get the best of both worlds. Fatty flavour from the sirloin and tenderness from the fillet. For the size of the piece of steak, I thought this was really good value. 
We decided to forego dessert and our total bill for dinner including a glass of wine and 2 beers was £93.94.  
The following evening we had an early dinner reservation and requested to be seated in the glasshouse. Much better and the pictures came out much better too. 
As we had a fairly late lunch, we went straight in for the main event. I ordered the roast rump of Hampshire lamb with braised barley, artichoke crisps and rosemary jus (£18.00). Our waiter recommended I have it medium, which is fine for me, but when it came it was closer to well done than to medium. None-the-less, it was a very good, succulent piece of meat and the artichoke crisps were delicious. They could package them up and sell them just like that! I’ve never had barley on its own before and I really enjoyed it. To go with it, I chose a side of wild rocket and Lyburn cheese (£3.50) Simple and delicious. 
The Better Half chose The Pie @ The Pig – Braised beef and Purbeck Ale pie with garden greens (£14.00). A very generous portion and unlike a lot of pies out there, the filling was pretty generous too. He also chose a flower pot of triple cooked chips (£3.50). 
I am a sucker for short bread, so when I saw it as part of one of the desserts, I just had to order it. We shared the garden rosemary scented burnt cream with macerated New Forest Strawberries and shortbread (£7.00). Basically a crème bruleé. I loved everything about it from the presentation, to the sharp crack when breaking through the burnt sugar top. Maybe I am becoming a sweet tooth? After this dessert, it would be easy to see how that would be possible. 
The total bill for our second dinner which included 2 beers, a glass of wine, a glass of diet coke, 2 mains, 2 sides and a dessert was £120.09.

 

Service was good and I loved how all the staff wore pink shirts, jeans and blue converse trainers. Casual, but not sloppy.  There were a few “lost in translation” moments, but all in all we enjoyed the experience very much.
 
The hotel is beautiful and has the whole shabby-chic vibe nailed. I could’ve written a whole review about it, but this is after all a restaurant review blog. The ethos of the place is admirable and you can just tell that everyone there, from the hotel and restaurant staff to the gardeners and even the pet pigs are happy to be there! It wasn’t a cheap weekend away, by any stretch of the imagination and I am not sure it has tempted us to try more “stay-cations”. But it was absolutely blissful from beginning to end.
 
It is a long weekend in the UK this weekend and that means there will be lots of eating and drinking. I have some wonderful meals planned over the next few weeks – Ceviche, John Salt and the hottest ticket in town at the moment, Restaurant Story. Can’t wait!
 
Until we eat again!
 

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