Places To Eat In Canterbury: The Pig Hotel, Bridge
With friends among the luxury travel writer set I’ve been aware of The Pig‘s line of British boutique hotels for some time now, and I’ve always wanted to stay in one. I’ve still not quite ticked that goal, but last week I did spend a lovely afternoon having patio drinks and lunch at the newest member of The Pig family – The Pig at Bridge Place, just outside Canterbury, and happily just 10 minutes down the road from my parents house.
Before lunch we took a turn around their kitchen garden. Everything at Bridge Place is all rather new, everything still needs to grow a bit to look truly lush, but it is going to be such a great location this time next year where everything is green and all of the veggies you eat come out of the raised beds in the raised Tudor garden. It’s pretty difficult to get a table at the moment, but if you want a taste of The Pig and it’s a sunny day, the garden is the place to be at the moment, with a chef, pizza oven, wood fire pit and lots of local beer, wine, chairs and tables set up behind the greenhouse. You’ll probably be able to find me there with my laptop hiding out on sunny days when the building works at my parents house make it too noisy to be outside!
Heading into the hotel lobby for a few drinks before lunch, we bypassed the beautiful Tudor bar area in favour of drinks out on the terrace in the brilliant spring sunshine. Those of us who were not driving had infused glasses of English sparkling wine from just down the road – wonderful under cloudless blue skies.
Lunch started with some local seeded bread from Docker Bakehouse on the Folkestone Harbour Arm, which our server (the service at The Pig is pretty great, by the way) recommended we serve not just with the provided butter, but dipped in a mixture of their house smoked sea salt and garden infused extra virgin olive oil.
The Pig operates (where possible) a 25 mile menu, sourcing as many local ingredients as possible – it was great to see some of my favourite suppliers represented! We kicked off with some nibbles – some truly excellent Devilled Whitebait (meaty, crisp and very tasty – these are a must-order) and some ham hock scotched eggs with a Colemans mustard dressing – nice, but not nearly as awesome as the whitebait which would also make a fantastic patio bar snack if you’re booked in for a stay and whiling away the afternoon with a good book.
My Dad had the slow roasted and pulled beef which he was not very impressed with (he said this when our server asked how the food was and they took it off the bill without us even realising so no harm done) and my mother and I shared the other two dishes. The local asparagus served with a homemade vegan herb mayo and crispy capers was really great; the asparagus was so perfectly cooked, the mayo was rich and really zingy, and the capers set the whole thing off nicely. A really, really lovely dish. However, if you ignore the fact it has just been slopped in a plate rather than more suitably served in a bowl, the spring pea and broad bean risotto I’m pretty sure will be one of the best risottos you’ll ever taste. So fresh, so bright, tender with the right amount of bite and the perfect consistency, I hope there is always some sort of risotto on the menu.
The mains were all very tasty, but there was a clear hierarchy. My slow braised lamb neck served with mountain mint, peas and broad beans was perfectly executed with a good sauce, melt in the mouth meat and al-dente vegetables. However, presentation is not really dish dishes strong point, and I think it needed some sort of carb to soak up all that gravy – it just did not feel very balanced as a dish.
Daddy had the Alkham Valley Farm Beef & Wife of Bath’s Ale Pie. I found it really tasty, it looked excellent, and I loved how it came with a nice serving of mash and a jug of delicious parsley liquor for pouring. However, he thought the meat was a bit dry. I think my mother had the main course trump card with the sea bass served with tomatoes, fennel and lots of delicious extra virgin olive oil. So full of flavour, fresh, light and bright, it was a beautiful, tasty dish that screamed the beginning of summer. Get this.
The puddings were all very good. Daddy’s burnt cream was up to scratch and my mum’s chocolate mousse served with brandy soaked prunes was beautifully presented, with a really rich, smooth flavour; the perfect end to the meal if you love a bit of something sweet, but without going too overboard on the sugar. However, I think I had the best dessert. It was up there with the risotto as something that made lunch really stand out. It was a garden mint blancmange served with homemade dark chocolate crisp shards, and it was both really simple and truly excellent. So many mint chocolate desserts have that mint sweet, refreshing taste, but this was a celebration of garden mint, with the perfect balance of creaminess and concentrated fresh mint, like the perfect cup of fresh mint tea, taken to a whole new level. It’s a really lovely English end to the meal, and if you happen to go just for the risotto (you can get main course sizes of all smaller dishes) and this, you’ll be utterly blown away.
We checked out the bar inside, and figured it would be a beautiful place to go for drinks before a meal when the weather is not good enough for the courtyard, so the moral of this story is to always arrive early for your reservation at The Pig to really soak up the atmosphere!
We had a fantastic afternoon at The Pig, and I think the hotel is a really great addition to our little corner of the Kentish Countryside. There is great – if not a bit expensive food – which has local ingredients and consistency to recommend it in truly beautiful surroundings. If you’re local go check it out (though I warn you, reservations are pretty impossible to come by at the moment!) then save it for a special occasion, and then also go check out the little summer kitchen at the end of the garden. If you’re looking for a luxury weekend away (we’re only an hour from London down here!) you can check out the rooms here, and once you’ve enjoyed one great meal at the hotel during your stay, you can check out my recommendations for other places to eat in the area here.