PIGS

Pigs are very intelligent, clean, social animals with a wonderful sense of smell, which is why they are great truffle hunters. So we should love them for that reason alone. Oh, and they also taste great!

As a nice Jewish girl, I am not sure it is legal to have such a penchant for pig, but what can a girl do? It is definitely the meat of the moment having showcased its best sides through Jamie’s shoulder of pork recipe, the trend a few years ago for pork belly, the whole scratchings fashion and latterly, barbecued ribs a la Pitt Cue co.

Tea towels from Ham

Tea towels from Ham

This Christmas, my presents and cards will also have a piggy feel thanks to the wonderful Jo at Ham who is manufacturing beautiful piggy based things for the kitchen here in Britain.

The Pig Sign

This week, I finally managed to get down to the New Forest to have lunch at The Pig hotel, which has been on my list for some time now. Created by successful hotelier Robin Hutson, this reasonably priced, 26 room hotel is the latest incarnation from the Lime Wood Group. Mr Hutson is a bit of an inspiration in the hotel world. He created the Hotel du Vin chain which reinvented the town hotel and now he has applied his immense talent to the country hotel. The beauty of The Pig is the walled garden, which is central to the concept and really does define the identity of the place. By bringing the food into the heart of the hotel, The Pig has partnered two key elements required to satisfy even the most discerning lodger.

The walled garden treats

The walled garden treats

Cavolo Nero is such a wonderful veg

Cavolo Nero is such a wonderful veg

The Pig menu is created from within a 25 mile radius with chef, forager and gardener working well together to create wonderful British garden food. Everything was presented with a nod to garden, from the first seating in the Victorian conservatory to the presentation of the menu and table complete with herb pots. But the most exciting part was the menu itself. It was creative and interesting and the food generally delivered in the same vein. This wasn’t exciting cutting edge food and some of the flavour was not as intense as I would have expected, but we had a great time and a thoroughly enjoyable, good value meal.

The Victorian conservatory houses the restaurant

The Victorian conservatory houses the restaurant

The Pig hotelThe whole experience reminded me of two other places I have written about before in Top of the World and The Promised Land.

The Stone Barn that houses Blue Hill

The Stone Barn that houses Blue Hill

The first is Blue Hill at Stone Barns, home of the brilliant chef, Dan Barber in New York. This is the best overall meal experience I have ever had. It began with a tour of the farm and ended with a 28 course meal that blew my mind. The first 10 course were vegetarian and the first 12 course were eaten without cutlery!

What the team at Blue Hill don’t know about veggies is not worth knowing. It was the Driven by Flavour podcast that first introduced me to chef Barber, changing my whole outlook on vegetables, and was the only reason I went to Blue Hill in the first place. If you ever get the chance, go there, take the farm tour, see what it is these guys do with every single element of meat and veg and just bathe in the glory of these ultra talented passionate people. Ask about the charcoal, go and see the pigs and make the most of the incredible knowledgable passionate staff who will tell you everything you need to know about the meal. Each table gets something slightly different as the chef creates dishes from what is available so go for it…we did! The Blue Hill clan are genuinely changing the world with their revelations and delivering incredible food at the same time. This is the premier league of garden centric restaurants and it doesn’t get much better than this.

One little part of the garden at Babylonstoren

One little part of the garden at Babylonstoren

The other place that puts a garden at the heart of its hotel and restaurant is Babylonstoren in the Winelands, near Cape Town. The menu and cooking here was not as exciting as Blue Hill, but in terms of design and gardens, this wins hands down. My ‘room’ was actually a cottage which I could quite happily have lived in forever and every single part of the hotel embraced the surrounding grounds. Room service had touches of herbs, you were positively encouraged to go pick your own and cook in your room and the staff even let me go cook the morning breads for breakfast. This is a piece of heaven and a must if you are in the area.

My herby fruity breakfast bread baked alongside the Babylonstoren chef who cooks for Babel restaurant

My herby fruity breakfast bread baked alongside the Babylonstoren chef who cooks for Babel restaurant

Garden centric restaurants and hotels rule and I hope that The Pig is one of many that follow in this country.

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