Noble wines, simple food at The Pig: Richard Esling November 10
Just two of the underlying principles on which the Pig group of restaurants are built, though for the food side, read ‘Simply delicious’.
Launched less than 10 years ago with the first Pig in Brockenhurst in the New Forest in 2011, The Pig at Harlyn Bay in North Cornwall is now the seventh to open. Robin Hutson, one of the co-founders of the group and erstwhile founder of the Hotel du Vin chain, carefully calls the Pigs ‘restaurants with rooms’, eschewing the term hotel. Nonetheless, a stay at one of the Pigs is like staying at an ultimately relaxing country hotel, but much less snooty.
In fact, all the staff at The Pigs, certainly the team at Harlyn Bay, are as far removed from snooty as you can get. They are a happy bunch, brilliantly trained, dedicated and enthusiastic, each one portraying the very essence of what ‘hospitality’ is all about. Mark Jones, general manager, runs the establishment with impeccable attention to detail, creating a relaxed, informal yet always professional, atmosphere. Entering the front door, you become part of a community, which is very, very difficult to leave once your booking has come to its inevitable end.
Destined to open in April this year, the eventual date was pushed forward to July 4 for reasons we all know about.
However, since then, the restaurant, together with its 30 rooms has been fully booked throughout the summer and autumn months – until now with Lockdown Number Two. I was lucky enough to visit just before this second closure and enjoyed a couple of days of pure relaxation and indulgence in a beautiful and historic setting, ten minutes from the beach.
The main building built of local stone, dates back to the sixteenth century, when it was one of the principal houses of the area. Other stone outbuildings house more guest bedrooms, together with the quirky garden wagons – ancient gipsy caravan from the outside, luxuriously comfortable bedroom suite inside, complete with fridge, coffee machine and wood-burning stove. With the eclectic mix of furniture and fabrics in the bar, restaurant and lounges, this is a true home-from-home.
More of the Pig’s laudable principles instilled by Robin, are the fact that 80 per cent of the produce and supplies for the restaurant are sourced within a 25-mile radius. A walled kitchen garden is part and parcel of the Pig, including a huge greenhouse, chickens, quails and a mushroom shed. Talking of sheds, in the summer, The Lobster Shed – an outside restaurant in the grounds - serves local lobster and other dishes, managing to sell a whopping 7,000 during the few months they have been open this year.
More caring principles here too. In order to sustain stocks, they buy on the basis of ‘Buy one, set one free’ – a totally different concept to buy-one-get-one-free. And with the kitchen garden, during the lockdown, produce is being delivered every week to the local foodbank and caterers providing meals for the elderly and vulnerable.
As to the wines, Robin’s attitude is to enjoy great bottles with simple food prepared from the highest quality ingredients. The wine list is comprehensive, but refreshingly also includes many wines rarely encountered on a restaurant list. The knowledgeable and effusive head sommelier Greg Turner is largely responsible for the list and can advise passionately on your choice of wine.
The only downside concerned my wife, a confirmed Poldark fan. Hoping to meet Aidan Turner around every corner, she was sadly disappointed!