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Muddy eats: The Pig-near Bath

Pig out in a good way! Smart but super relaxed, fine dining – and nights away – at the lusciously laid back hotel and restaurant The Pig-near Bath

THE LOCATION

Set within a 30-acre deer park in the rolling Mendip Hills, near the village of Pensford, about 8 miles west of Bath, this lusciously laid back hotel is part of the highly successful Pig Hotel Group.

THE VIBE

Relaxed and cool but not pretentious or stuffy. There is no dress code or staff uniform here, Steff Jones (manager) and his friendly, attentive team wear trainers and know how to take care of their guests.

Each Pig hotel is styled around an imaginary figure who might have lived there. In this case it is a military gentleman who enjoys the classic countryside pursuits of huntin’ and fishin’. Hence the oil paintings, faux animal heads and a cabinet with trophy fish. All slightly tongue in cheek and updated for a 21st century clientele.

Spot of snooker anyone?

Pick a drink, any drink.

Lunch is served in the light-filled signatory Conservatory – each Pig Hotel has one – filled with plants and herbs (maybe the military man’s wife must have been a keen botanist?). Food is served on mismatched old English crockery which gives a nostalgic nod to a bygone era.

Outside, there’s a large seating area and an outside oven for summer dining and an enclosed lawned area for kids to safely play and a hide-out while their parents get on with the serious business of unwinding.

Much of the produce used in the restaurant is grown in the extensive kitchen garden and drives the menu. We had a tour with the lovely and knowledgeable head gardener, Rebecca Huntley, shown here outside the mushroom house, where oyster mushrooms had just been harvested.

Although early spring, plenty of promising shoots revealed the variety of vegetables grown here that the chefs can draw on for year round inspiration. There’s a smoke house, an established orchard with wild flower meadow, fruit cages, a restored greenhouse and polytunnels which act as a nursery for specialist plants.

The fruit and veg are not the only things being nurtured in the garden; you can book yourself in for a deluxe treatment in The Potting Shed Treatment rooms.

SCOFF & QUAFF

We had a glass of champagne in the cosy bar room next to a roaring fire and were offered some Piggy Bits – hock eggs and Colman’s dressing and tempura carrots – while we perused the impressive 25-mile menu. Somerset has more than 8,500 farmers and food producers (more than any other county in the UK) and The Pig works with many of them, including Longmans at North Leaze Farm (who make award winning butter and Vale of Camelot blue cheese), Glastonbury Ales and Bertinet Bakery.

So onto the grub. Starters were a pressed Wiltshire ham terrine with cranberry and apple chutney and chargrilled, melt-in-the-mouth sardines with chilli mayo and cucumber, and we also tried some truffled turnip gratin with sourdough bread and caramelised parsnip tart with blue Vinney and crispy shallots.

For mains: fresh up from Cornwall, Sennen Cove ray wing with a mound of celeriac remoulade and sprinkled with brown shrimp.

The Hunstrete venison haunch with buttered kalettes and Armagnac sauce was splendid.

Desserts: a sumptuous dark chocolate mousse with a Moro blood orange (very seasonal) sorbet.

A cardamom set cream with poached rhubarb. From the garden? Not this time, this was picked by candlelight at the famous Yorkshire rhubarb triangle).

Wine lovers are in good hands with the most extensive wine list and an equally impressive Sommelier, Ed Osborne. You can request the Sommelier’s Cellar Book for the opportunity to taste a selection of carefully selected, unique and one-off wines by the glass. The series of Chef meets Sommelier suppers – celebrating seasonal food and wine throughout the year – at the Pig-near Bath and at the Pig-at Coombe sound brilliant.

White wine:  English Chardonnay,  Gravel Castle, Simpsons, Kent England 2018; Chenin Blanc/Clairette/Viognier,  Mullineux Family Wines, Swartland, South Africa 2018. Red wine: Aglianico, Radici Riserva, Mastroberardino, Taurisi, Italy 2009; Cabernet Sauvignon, La Jota, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California USA 2012.

The food and the service were both outstanding.

PILLOW TALK

Stay in one of the two-storey cosy retreats hidden in the kitchen garden which come complete with a wood burning stove, monsoon showers and free-standing baths: The Apple Store (once a rustic shed) or The Hide (below) where the 80 strong herd of fallow deer come right up to your window.

Very Little House on the Prairie.

Remember to wash behind your ears.

You can also stay in a Snug, Comfy (below), Comfy Luxe or Big Comfy Luxe room in the main house.

OUT AND ABOUT

Splendiferous Bath is just up the road but apparently most weekend guests never leave the hotel (and frankly who can blame them?).

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Fine, imaginative, seasonal food in a smart but relaxed setting. Vegetarians are properly catered with the Garden, Greenhouse & Polytunnel menu, a selection of plant-based dishes, mainly picked that morning. Children are welcome in the dining room and to stay. Go for lunch, dinner, spend the night or even better make a weekend of it. Perfect for a special occasion; larger parties can dine in a gorgeous dining room or the snooker room.

Not for: Mind’s gone blank (must be all those wines we had to taste).

The damage: You can pig out pretty reasonably. Starters £6–£9; mains £14–£26; desserts £8– £9. The Gardener’s 25-miler lunch special (now extended to end of March) is £22.50 per person. Accommodation: prices start from £170 for a mid-week Snug Room. Until the end March, Spring Getaway midweek B&B stay for two, from £179.

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The Pig-near Bath, Hunstrete House, Hunstrete, Pensford, Bath BS39 4NS. Tel 01761 490490. thepighotel.com/near-Bath

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Photos: Rick Foulsham

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