The Pig is an exceptional new hotel in the New Forest from the man who brought you Soho House, the Hotels du Vin and Lime Wood. Having done urban chic, town-based class and a five star country house hotel, Robin Hutson clearly isn’t happy sitting on his laurels, and his new project offers a hotel which is fantastic value for money, with an understated charm that it’s impossible to bottle: The Pig is so likeable that, on leaving, one immediately seeks an excuse for a return visit.
The Pig is the little sister of Lime Wood, the classic Hampshire five star country house hotel with prices to match. Little sis is a lot more laid back, more appealing to the wallet and full of thoughtful small touches which give the place character. Located in a classically-proportioned Georgian former shooting lodge just outside Brockenhurst, it’s easy to feel at home as soon as you arrive. In the library I fell on a pile magazines and immediately relaxed.
I had an appointment booked with the hotels’s forager, Garry, who wisely suggested raiding the selection of cheerfully patterned wellies by the reception desk in preparation. An idyllic autumn afternoon passed quickly in dappled New Forest sunshine with Garry’s dog Finn. We saw deer and wild ponies, and gathered an fine selection of mushrooms from the forest floor including the last of some very good porcini. Thoroughly tired out after three hours of mushroom hunting, we delivered our haul back to the restaurant kitchen with an immense sense of achievement and went to change for supper.
The rooms (the choice when you book is betweem snug, cosy and spacious) are extremely comfortable and ours had lovely views out over the stable block (now extra rooms) and the terrace. A small dressing room and a grand bathroom with a huge shower and a roll top bath provided everything one could possibly need, but the mini bar went a step further. A local beer, beautiful local chocolates, fizzing candy, salted nuts and wines proved impossible to resist before supper.
When we went down to the bar we nibbled on some beautiful ‘piggy bits’ – mini scotch eggs and wonderful ham – in the bar as Robin and his talented wife Judy explained how much fun – and serious dedication – is involved in finding the perfect interiors for a property like this. The restaurant is situated in the large garden conservatory which is stuffed with plants and herbs, and charmingly mismatched furniture, and it feels cosy even on a late September evening. The mushrooms Garry and I had picked that afternoon were served simply fried in butter on toast, and all the food was very well put together in a similar, deliciously unfussy vein. while the wine list provided plenty of choice for extremely fair prices. Meanwhile the fire roared in the sitting room, which buzzed with guests having a nightcap.
Breakfast had a charming farmhouse feel, eaten looking out over the grounds in the morning. All the produce which doesn’t come from the impressive kitchen garden comes from within 25 miles of hotel, and we heaped our plates with fruit, yoghurt, granola and proper honey still in its comb before tucking into some seriously fresh eggs. A turn around the garden, and a quick snuffle at the pigs in their house by the pond and we were off, addressing our diaries to find that crucial excuse for a swift return. The Pig is a shining example of how to do a low-key, high-class
place, seemingly effortlessly.