The southwest of England is not short of country house hotels. But the bills can be eyebrow-raising – don’t expect change from £1,000 for a weekend break.
One new hotel group, however, aims to deliver the country house hotel experience at a far lower price. The Pig chain started with a hotel in the New Forest. I visited some time ago and was impressed. Since then, a Pig has opened in Southampton, and the latest addition – the Pig in Bath, the subject of this review – opened its doors in March.
The set-up is simple: the Pig aims to make you feel as though you are visiting a friend’s fantastic country house. There’s no stuffiness, few rules and a price that won’t make you whimper – a weekend break with dinner and spa treatments costs around £500.
The hotel is a Georgian house in a deer park near Bath. It has impressive views of the Mendip Hills, expansive gardens, a good wine cellar and a spa.
Downstairs, guests can lounge in front of log fires and enjoy delicious, inventive cocktails – try the Lady Marmalade for a refreshing, fruity concoction. Upstairs, the bedrooms are large and comfortable with the same vast beds, quality linen and posh toiletries you would expect in any top-of-the-range English hotel.
Everything has been thought of and standards are extremely high – before the hotel opened, the hotel manager slept in every single room to ensure there were no flaws that could mar a guest’s stay.
The grounds are worth exploring. As well as the deer park, an enormous kitchen garden which offers everything from asparagus to radishes. On your travels, stop by the hen coop to meet the ladies who provide your breakfast eggs, and don’t miss the pig sty.
Three incredibly friendly pet pigs are kept in an enclosure near the hotel, and will rush up to greet you when you approach the gate. (To avoid awkward questions from younger guests, the pigs that end up on your plate are also housed on site, but a little further away.)
The hotel’s chefs make good use of all of these raw ingredients. I’m moving to Bristol soon and plan to be a regular visitor to the restaurant. Not only is it one of the best I’ve been to, it’s also affordable – main courses start from £13. For me, a highlight of the menu is the ‘Piggy Bits’.
These little tapas-like nibbles are utterly delicious – the venison and pork sausage roll was my favourite. More adventurous options include the pig cheek, which comes with the teeth still in situ. That’s a little too evocative for me, but some diners love it – one asked to take the teeth home in a jar!
After a heavy night of food and wine, I dragged myself off for a spa treatment the next morning, slightly regretful that I had booked such an early slot. But my hangover was soon forgotten as the therapist led me through the grounds to a small potting shed and began the Pig Signature Treatment.
Two hours later, after scrubs, masks and massage, I felt like a new woman – one who would have happily headed back to the restaurant for round two.
The Pig near Bath offers the kind of relaxed country house service that leaves you feeling like a cherished regular, even if you’ve only been there for five minutes. I’d get there fast – I can’t believe the prices won’t go up in the future.
• Double rooms from £139 a night, excluding breakfast; spa from £60. For details, call 01761-490490 or see Thepighotel.com/near-bath.