The scene was set. Twenty five years of marriage beckoned. The Flame demanded a week of unbridled luxury and decadence. The pressure was on. Sun, sea and warmth was high on The Flames list. Pitched against, was my loathing of the security debacle that surrounds a journey of flight.
Twitter once again came to the rescue. The Pig On The Beach, newly opened in Studland in Dorset, entered the ‘twittersphere’ as did their Food Director James Golding. I was hooked. I set the date immediately. Chuffed with the choice I settled with months to go. Any doubts were soon quashed when the Sunday Times announced that The Pig On The Beach was to be their hotel of the year. The tributes started to flow. Maybe I had picked right after all?
We floated across to Studland from Poole and wound our way down a narrow track. She homed into view. The Pig in all her glory (it must be a she mustn’t it?) A riot of yellow, cream, straw topped turrets amidst a sea of foliage. We crunched our steed into the packed car park (past the rather fetching bronze Pig, guarding the door). It only has twenty three rooms but it seemed the whole of Dorset was in town! Despite being a Monday lunchtime, the place was packed. Diners crammed the restaurant whilst the post lunch crowd slept off their feed in the elegant lounges. As our room was only ready at three we tootled down to the ‘Bankes Arms’ and swooped in a Purbeck IPA (brewed on the premises) for starters. The four day break was starting nicely.
We gleefully romped up the winding steps to our No 11 room. It overlooked the grounds and the Middle Beach of Studland bay, ‘Harrys Rock’ to the right, the fleet of happy, laying hens to the left. Set in the bay window was our very own roll topped bath. The room was elegance and charm personified. Greys, creams, wood and bakerlite completed the rustic, vintage theme.
Thankfully after our long drive we were booked in for dinner (you have to book the restaurant, just like everyone else!). A rumour went round in the afternoon that a ‘bin lid’ sized turbot had been caught off the coast that morning and was being carved up by the chef. I knew what I was having for my main course! As if to emphasise the ‘localness’ of the food offering, the menu changes each service. If The Pig (and its a big If) can’t grow or rear the ingredients itself, the ’25 mile’ menu lets you know where the rest comes from. Talk about fresh and local. The walled kitchen garden is a riot of ‘greenage’ dotted with the flashes of colour from the fruit and flowers of growth. Its a handsome sight.
Dinner is held in the ‘garden room’. A rich mosaic of tiles (Belgian I believe) coat the floor. Bare wooden furniture adorned with a flush of herbs and shrubbery take away any hard edges. Lit to perfection this is a beautiful place to engage with a loved one and dine. The food and wine helps as well though. Every course was stunning, all brilliantly presented. We munched (over a couple of sittings) through an array of fish (turbot, sea bream, cod) meat (lamb, pork, chicken), terrines, tarts, autumn veg, sumptuous ‘puds’ and glorious cheeses. All fresh and local.
Whilst booking is required for dinner, being a guest does net you a breakfast table. Same as dinner but the light is provided by the glorious sunshine peeping over the hills rather than the retro shades. Breakfast is extra though. A tenner lands you a free rein of the finest collection of homemade granolas, muesli’s cheeses, breads, jams, oils, eggs, fruits and yoghurts you’ll ever need. An extra fiver lands you all this plus fancy eggs (benedict, royale, Florentine), hot buttered kippers and the famous ‘Pig Out’. Sticking to the overriding theme it’s all built by the fair hand of a local herd, flock, shoal, bush or artisan. Such was the vastness and quality of choice lunch was bypassed all the time we were there.
To try to ensure this vast input of ‘foodage’ was kept in check a couple of good walks were called for. Swanage is a three-mile scutch on the coastal walk. This takes you past the aforementioned ‘Harrys Rock’. A few great lumps of chalk protruding from the frothy waters. Well worth it. And don’t worry if it rains, you can always borrow some ‘Hunter’ wellies and a brolly from reception!
Sadly for us The Pig does not have a pool, however, for a princely sum various restorative treatments for the mind and body can be acquired. A couple of well-kept, outdoor sheep huts set in the grounds provide the relavant privacy.
All in all we had a thoroughly wonderful time. The bright, young, breezy staff set in their pink and blue, ensured all our needs were fed, watered and kept up to speed. This level of pandering does smart the wallet a bit. Each night peeled a further £189 from The Cooktwit coffers, dinner a good £100 and a decent half bot of ‘Chat of 9 vino’ plumbed in at £36 (though there are cheaper options). It was all worth it though.
There are four Pig Hotels knocking about at the moment. ‘The Pig’ brand heads things up while a subtle strapline tells you where they sit. We stayed at ‘The Pig On The Beach’. I think we will be giving ‘The Pig…near Bath…In The Wall (Southampton)…Brockenhurst New Forest a bit of a seeing to sometime in the future. failing that we will be On The Beach again soon. And so should you!
Manor Road, Studland,
- Tel: +44 (0) 1929 450288