Sometimes – when you’re really lucky – you can get away with excuses like ‘the dog ate my homework’, ‘my three alarms didn’t go off’, ‘there was a wild pony in the way’…
I used the latter last weekend when driving to The Pig in Brockenhurst. You see, there really was a wild pony in the way. A stubborn, brown wild pony that didn’t want to move, so just stood and stared, enjoying the power. Were we, or The Pig, surprised? Of course not – this is what happens in the New Forest.
We were there for lunch, which started with a cocktail in the opulent bar of a magnificent country house. Our jaw dropping menus were stuffed with food that either came from The Pig’s walled garden, or anywhere within a 25 mile radius. Garden to plate is The Pig’s delicacy.
A large, bright, rustic conservatory housed the dining room, which was packed with guests staying in one of The Pig’s 26 rooms and people like us that had battled wild horses to be there for lunch.
A handful of honey covered, rosemary almonds kept us going at the bar, but didn’t stop us ordering from every section of the menu. ‘Piggy Bits’ were our appetisers (£3.75 each) – dense, crisp Black Pudding Balls were lightened by a side of piccalilli and long strips of crackling looked too scary for my teeth, but were happily munched around the table.
When I heard they’d been foraged that morning, I immediately ordered the New Forest Mushrooms & Black Garlic Mayo with a crispy Burford Brown egg as my starter (£6). Dripping in parsley butter, the mushrooms had the most beautiful flavour and texture, made all the more special by the runny, golden egg.
The Pig’s Extraordinary Bath Chap was the only main for me (£15). Our smiley, attentive waitress tested my squeamishness by mentioning that this Bath Chap came with his teeth. But that didn’t bother me, I was going in.
When I lifted the vast side of crackling off my massive pig’s head, I found the cheek, which couldn’t have been more succulent, and the teeth, which made me feel sick.
A simple turn of the plate soon sorted that out and I continued my hearty meal, smothering all meat in homemade apple sauce and enjoying the occasional piece Roasted Crown Prince Squash and our side of purple sprouting broccoli (£3.75).
We shared a Garden Tarragon Cheesecake for dessert (£7). We weren’t hungry, but the sweetcorn sauce sounded interesting and I’m a sucker for anything with popcorn. This was accompanied by Fresh Mint Tea (to aid digestion) and Piggy Fours (£5.50) – bright pink lumps of deliciousness that almost looked too good to eat.
I’d go back to The Pig in a heartbeat and am now dying to try The Pig on the Beach in Dorset. I hear they may be planning to expand nearer home – a rumour I very much hope turns out to be true.
The Pig, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire SO42 7QL
Food 5/5 – Price 5/5 – Staff 5/5 – Atmosphere 5/5