REVIEW: THE PIG RESTAURANT, BROCKENHURST
My day started bright and early (for a BSF journalist) at 10.30am at Waterloo Station. The reason for such a rude awakening? I am going for lunch at the highly acclaimed restaurant The Pig, based in Brockenhurst in the New Forest. The restaurant opened in 2012 by renowned hotel and eatery entrepreneur Robin Hutson of Lime Wood hotel fame, so it’s no surprise that The Pig also has 26 rooms available if you fancy spending more than an afternoon in the country house grounds.
Our train arrives at Brockenhurst rail station about an hour and a half after leaving Waterloo and by this point I have truly worked up an appetite. The restaurant is only 2 miles from the station and our taxi ride takes us through the greenery into the heart of the New Forest where The Pig lies. We arrive at the grand manor house and once through the door there is certainly a homely feel about the restaurant. As well as the main restaurant, there are various chill out rooms and a beautiful summer barbeque garden- which I imagine would be a hive of activity when it’s much warmer than 3 degrees Celsius.
The Pig prides itself on the many of the fruits and vegetables used within their cooking are grown within the grounds of The Pig, and where this isn’t the case, they are sourced within 25 miles of the restaurant. We took a tour of the vast gardens and witnessed firsthand the amount of care everyone, including the chefs, put into the garden to ensure customers get the freshest ingredients.
Now down to the all important eating. I take my seat in the conservatory and looking around at other diners, there doesn’t seem to be a set type of audience with business people, young couples, and ‘ladies that lunch’ all feasting away. Soon it was our turn, and an impressive pork sharing platter of quail scotch eggs, crackling with apple sauce, cured ham, chipolatas and more. It may sound cliché but it was difficult to pick a favourite as it was all so good, and I almost forget to hold back to leave space for the main course.
I’m usually one to go for the safe option, so it even came as a shock to me when the waitress asked for my order and my mouth uttered the words “Slow Roasted Bath Chap please” (also known as Pig’s Cheek). I can only blame it on the country air for my abnormal outburst and the waitress even gave me a final chance to back out of my choice by informing me that it comes complete with the entire jaw with teeth and all, but I stand firm- today is a day for trying new things, and if I’m going to eat half of a pig’s face, then The Pig is certainly the place to do it.
My chap arrives and it is looks even more ghoulish than I imagined; I never realised a pig’s jaw was so large, and this piggy seemed to suffer from cavities. I get stuck into the crackling of the cheek, which was amongst the best I’ve had. The meat underneath takes some manoeuvring to get to and have to cut through a thick layer of fat, but once I’m through, the meat is tender but slightly greasy for my liking. The tobacco onion side dish was a great companion with the smoky flavour and a great alternative to fries. My companions seemed to be enjoying their mains, with the scallops receiving a particularly good vote of confidence. The unique ingredients don’t just stop with the food. I tried a delicious cocktail made from a homemade Bog Myrtle infused vodka, and is like nothing I’ve ever had (take that pretentious west end cocktail bars!)
I came to The Pig expecting a lot, and after visiting the grounds and seeing the blood, sweat and passion (edit: I just realised how cheesy that sounds) put into the restaurant, it’s easy to see why it has gained such a reputation and at such reasonable prices for the area. The chefs have been adventurous with the menu which should be commended as they are trying to push the boundaries of traditional British cuisine. The only weakness I could find was that there wasn’t an obvious standout signature dish, but it could be argued that the restaurant is so well received that every dish is unique thanks to the ever changing ingredients. You can find better food much closer to London, but this restaurant is about so much more than just the meal and I encourage every food enthusiast to pack a weekend bag and go on a culinary journey to The Pig.
The Pig Hotel & Restaurant, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire SO42 7QL
Main dishes around £15-£20. For bookings visit www.thepighotel.co.uk or phone 01590 622354