I love autumn. Particularly when the weather starts to get colder, the days become shorter and darker, and the leaves turn a brilliant burnt, crispy orange. At this time of year, wearing woolly hats, scarves, mittens and slippers becomes acceptable again… which makes me very happy.
As an added bonus, “autumn food” is awesome. Hearty portions of warming, comforting and satisfying dishes that will see you through the coldest and soggiest fireworks displays. Think soups, roasted vegetables, baked potatoes, pies, mash, crumbles… no delicate salads here. What’s not to love?
On a dark and rainy day in October, I can’t think of anything more appealing than whiling away the afternoon in a warm and cosy pub. Even better, spending it in a Victorian greenhouse attached to a country house, eating fresh, locally sourced and foraged food, under the watchful eye of a life-sized pig statue. If you hadn’t guessed, I’m talking about The Pig in Brockenhurst, New Forest.
The Pig, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QL (about five minutes’ drive from Brockenhurst train station).
A converted, Victorian country house, greenhouse, kitchen garden, and grounds, complete with accommodation in converted stables, lodges and cabins.
From the main road, look out for the golden pig sign, which directs you onto a single-track lane that leads up to the grounds and buildings. The leafy driveway opens up onto rolling lawns and your first view of The Pig – grand, weathered and ever so slightly imposing in a storm.
Tip: drive slowly toward The Pig and you might spot one of the New Forest ponies, who hang out alongside the driveway.
You first walk into The Pig between two proud stone guard dogs. Instantly, you’re greeted by friendly staff members dressed in jeans and matching blue Converse, who show you through to the bar for an apéritif.
The bar is something pretty special… and I guarantee that the line-up of spirits will make you wonder whether it’s too early for a cocktail. Think worn leather chairs and sofas, solid wooden tables, an imposing fireplace complete with log burner, and an array of mounted boar heads, fish and oil paintings on the walls. A particularly nice touch is the potted plants on each table– ours was a strawberry plant. And, for those so inclined, you can also stock up on a little something from the cigar cabinet.
The restaurant itself is situated in the greenhouse adjoining the bar, with views across the lawns. It feels particularly warm and cosy… especially when rain starts pattering on the glass. Continuing the garden theme, plants creep up the ceiling supports and cleverly mingle with the foliage on each table, providing just enough privacy in a busy restaurant.
The Pig offers a “25 Mile” menu, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. Everything is sourced, supplied or foraged from within 25 miles– the locations are depicted on a map on the back of the menu. As a result, the dishes change regularly, depending on what’s in season or available. There’s a section of the menu called “Literally Picked This Morning,” which showcases the freshest ingredients from The Pig‘s kitchen garden.
What This Girl Ate
The menu opens with “Piggy Bits,” and my one and only regret is not ordering any. These are bite-sized porcine mouthfuls, which looked fantastic on everyone else’s plates (massive food envy). I didn’t want to peak too soon, so I decided to forgo these little treats in favour of a regular starter, main course and dessert. And, actually, when it came down to it, I couldn’t have eaten another morsel…!
I plumped for the Pinch of Salt‘s Hampshire Cured Meats Board to start. This platter of cured meats is served with green olives and pickles, and accompanied by freshly baked bread and spiced chutney. The meats were absolutely fantastic, with rich, deep flavours, and the pickles cut through the saltiness of the meats and olives perfectly.
I followed this with the sirloin steak, green leaves and thrice-cooked chips. Admittedly, it was a little bit indulgent, given the price tag! The chips were something else – crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Sprinkle on a little bit of the home-smoked salt and I guarantee that you’ll be very happy! The steak didn’t have any sauce to hide behind, so the quality and the flavour of the meat spoke for itself. My only comment is that my “medium” was a little bit too “well done” for me… but it didn’t stop me devouring the lot.
As you might have expected, I couldn’t resist ordering the cheese board. It came with four local cheeses, a port-poached pear, chutney, walnuts, and piggy biscuits. The blue cheese, piggy biscuits and poached pear were particular favourites… but more crackers, please!
The Pig is a rustic (re)treat hidden away in the New Forest. As a restaurant, it’s fantastic. Warm atmosphere and welcome, delicious food, great service… and a real lunch-time treat. It’s not the cheapest place to eat, but it’s well worth saving up for a special occasion. (I’ll have to come back for an overnight stay…)
I’d particularly recommend the cured meats, the thrice-cooked chips, and Piggy Bits (didn’t eat them, but gave them a good eyeing up!) Overall, a perfect posh lunch with top nosh.
Tip: as you might expect, the menu does lean towards pork. However, the freshly foraged fruit and vegetables make it well worth a trip for veggies… and the fish and pasta dishes looked delicious.