Review, The Pig near Bath: 'It was like hugging an old friend after a long time apart'
- Credit: M SKIDMORE
Al fresco dining is increasingly becoming the trend thanks to Covid - so I thought I'd return to one of my favourite restaurants to see how it has moved with these slightly odd times
It was April, slightly blowy and there was a chill in the air when we turned up at The Pig - near Bath, but still, it was like hugging an old friend after a long time apart when I pulled into the long gravelled drive leading up to this wonderful place.
My husband and I were booked in to try al fresco dining at the hotel's restaurant - at the time Covid restrictions only allowed for that. But it's something The Pig is going to continue with, alongside inside dining. We thought we would suss it out and see how it managed when coming up against the good old unpredictable British weather.
What is the atmosphere like?
To get to the outdoor dining area, we were directed through the fascinating kitchen garden, where many ingredients on the menu are grown. Clear signs showed us the way around the winding cobbled paths, with us stopping to spot unusual species of plants en route.
The Pig had set up a big undercover canvas area for dining, which had open sides overlooking the pretty gardens. Pretty fairy lights twinkled overhead and the signature kitchen garden look, with potted herbs and plants, had been brought outside. Happy chatter filled the air and socially-distanced tables were filled with a mixture of families, couples, friends and those having business meetings.
What was the service like?
Two words spring to mind; friendly and efficient. Staff dressed trendily in shirt, tie and jeans buzzed around customers, offering recommendations, with a happy smile. I genuinely felt they were happy to be working at The Pig.
Upon arrival we were offered blankets and, upon seeing I had optimistically worn sandals, I was offered a hot water bottle for my feet.
Staff, even those who have been working at The Pig for some time, have recently undergone further training to make the customer experience even better than it was (not sure if that is possible).
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What's the food like at The Pig near Bath?
The Pig has an overriding philosophy when it comes to food and that is that it will only use what it can grow itself, rear itself or source within 25 miles. I mean, we live in a part of the world that is rich in produce, so this makes total sense to me. If the past year has taught us a few things, surely one of those is to shop local.
We started off with some signature Piggy Bits, consisting of crackling with apple sauce, and smoked vodka barbecue ribs and crab bites with chilli mayo.
The crackling had that perfect crunch and was exactly how I always wish I could get mine at home, while the fluffy crab cakes were balanced well with the chilli mayo, which had quite a kick.
But the stand out star for me here was the ribs - a new addition to the menu. These little pieces of perfection were absolutely moreish and had the perfect combination of sticky, sweet and spicy. I felt like there was a little party going on in my mouth.
Then onto the starters. We had smoked Loch Duart salmon and foraged wild garlic pappardelle with Westcombe ricotta and sourdough breadcrumbs. The salmon was deliciously fresh, but the pappardelle was something else. The tasty crunch of the breadcrumbs and the tang of the ricotta set off the punch of wild garlic perfectly.
It had been a while since we had enjoyed a proper meal out together, so what else would we choose for our main courses but steak? And in this case, it was 8oz rib eye with thrice-cooked chips, garden salad and bearnaise sauce.
The steak was cooked really well, with that little hint of charcoal taste on the outside, and medium in the middle.
I forget that ribeye is a fatty steak, but that does add to the tenderness of the cut. The bearnaise sauce was delicious, but it was so delicious that next time I'd like a little more please!
The Pig has a really comprehensive plant, fish and meat-based menu and a fabulous specials board. Offerings such as a whole chicken to share and line-caught seabass were on the specials board on the day we visited.
What are the drinks like?
The drinks menus at The Pig are extensive. Whether you are after an alcoholic drink, cocktail, mocktail or soft drinks, there's plenty to choose from. The cocktail menu looked highly tempting but as it was lunchtime I settled for a non-alcoholic Seedlip gin, with slimline tonic, lemon wedges and ice.
The Pig has always been one of my go-to places as a couple. But I am planning on taking my daughter with me next time as it really would be suitable for families too. There's lawn games available, as well as welly throwing and other lovely touches in the garden.
The food is as good as ever and the al fresco dining was really enjoyable - the blanket and hot water bottle were a lovely touch. If you've never been to The Pig, please try it, I think you might just fall in love.
The hotel is planning to continue with an area of outside dining to run alongside indoor dining when it restarts this week. I think it has dealt wonderfully with the alfresco scene and, as always, I'll be back!
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