It isn't like I ever need an excuse to head out for a meal, but as it was Charlie's birthday last week, well, we just had to head out for a bite to eat.
The Pig is a firm favourite at home. A country house hotel nestled down the back roads of Brockenhurst. What makes it so special is its attitude to food, they have a 25 mile radius menu created with local ingredients and based upon what is growing in their walled kitchen garden. A lot of the ingredients are hand picked on the day to ensure maximum freshness, which also adds to its uniqueness.
As you are welcomed into the house it is an immediately cosy environment with waiting staff in casual jeans and converse.
We were lead into the bar, as the fire lit drawing room was quite full, and settled down into the squishy sofas.
I love the decor of these rooms and who wouldn't just love a fully stocked bar like that in their house!!
We ordered our drinks from the menus, sneakily inside pig raising handbooks, and of course we couldn't not order some of the 'piggy bits' to munch on.
Warm crackling with apple sauce, mini salamis and chorizo, pork rillettes
Bacon jam with cheese straws for dipping
and lastly some piggy scotch quails eggs.
These barely touched the sides, the bacon jam was just beyond anything I've tasted recently, well all of it. I could have solely feasted on any of these items alone.
After taking forever to decide over the tasty menu we were lead into the conservatory for our meal. The garden room is to keep in with the whole foraging idea for the menu
My favourite part is the beautifully tiled floor.
They have one in the bathroom too!! I would be really ok with this being my house.
We didnt have to wait long before the starters were on the table in front of us.
Dad was overjoyed to be able to have lamb kidneys (at least they could stink out someone else kitchen...) I was assured they were delicious though I can't say I was tempted to try them. I know, I know, poor chef form!
Charlie and I plumped for the smoked lamb belly with beetroot. I enjoyed this but we both agreed it was a touch on the greasy side. If there had been more acidity on the plate, either pickling one of the beetroots or just a more acidic dressing, it would have balanced out better and been able cut through it. Not that there was much left on my plate...
Maddie and Mum went for the pheasant terrine. This was lovely and coarse, just how Maddie likes it and again there wasn't even a morsel left for me to try! I just wasn't fast enough.
Aren't the little piggies on the plate just adorable?
Now I'm sorry for the lack of variation on the meals, there were so many tasty things to try but 3 of us ended up with the same main!
Mum had the lambs liver, topped with crispy onions, kale and mash. I did manage to get a bite of it and it was divine. Slightly pink in the middle with the most incredible flavour! All the old school cuts and bits of offal are really making a come back at the moment. The key to any of this is freshness. I think a lot of people would be scared to cook these at home, but I highly suggest being brave and ordering something different!
Maddie had the pork casserole with a suet crust. A hearty mix of large chunks of pork and celeriac, though it did need a big dollop of the garlic mash to mop up all the juicy parts.
Dad, Charlie and I had the veal cheek. This just, melted. I mean we didnt even need to knives on the tables. It broke and fell away under our forks.
It came accompanied with a little croquette that was filled with, what I can only think of as flavoured fat that once it was deep fried, melted away and then when you cut into it, it just added to the gravy on the plate. The crispy outside casing added another wonderful crunchy texture to the dish.
Honestly I never wanted this to end. It was just bliss.
Now, for lack of main courses, Ive done you guys a solid and went full throttle with desserts. I don't know why as I was so full even drinking down the last of my wine was a struggle. Well, almost a struggle...
Im glad I did as I came across a dessert that floated my boat so hard, it was unreal.
Meet my one and only, a baked Madeira and caramel tart with bay leaf ice cream.... a crispy top with the smoothest filling and the almost savoury ice cream cut through the sweet caramel. I was silenced.
Maddie had a seriously good apple tart tatin
Mum had some forced rhubarb, we weren't quite sure what the poor rhubarb had been forced to do, but whatever it was, it was a decidedly tasty outcome.
Charlie had, what was essentially a massive quenelle of chocolate mousse, which I have to say sounded much better on the menu than what appeared.
Dad, well Dad was Dad and had a selection of New Forest cheeses, but I think at the end of the day our eyes were all bigger than our stomachs!
We topped all of this off with the most delicious sweet sparkling Muscat wine and a tiny little happy birthday piggy for the birthday boy!
We had to roll ourselves our of the conservatory and back to the car.
I think the beauty of the pig is the simplicity of it and the attention to detail. From the floors and the sitting rooms, to the decor of the rooms and the collection of glasses on the scrubbed wooden tables.
Apparently you can't book a room in the hotel on the weekend for about a year, and even during the week your looking at, at least a months wait!
They've recently expanded their collection to The Pig in the Wall at Southampton, The Pig near Bath, which I presume is near Bath and The Pig at the Beach, which is down in Studland, Dorset.
With its ever changing menu I could never get bored of going back here, but I would never turn up without a reservation if any of you are planning a trip!!
Head to their website for info : http://www.thepighotel.com