It is a wonderful feeling when things start to go your way. Perhaps HM Revenue and Customs writes to tell you you’re due a tax rebate. Or you find that long lost piece of jewellery down the back of the sofa. In my case, it was arriving at THE PIG at Bridge Place in the middle of Kent.
Perhaps I should explain. My girlfriend and I had decided to escape London and go on holiday to Kent. It is always a clever move to go on holiday, but usually it is cleverer to book a place to stay before you are about to set off. Apparently, all of England is full for the next four hundred years and it seemed impossible to find a place to stay. Our view on what we deemed suitable fell lower and lower with each receptionist informing us down the phone “sorry, we’re fully booked.” We finally found a hut that could house us for a few nights, just outside of Canterbury.
Feeling slightly wounded by this litany of rejection, we decided to cheer ourselves up by booking the top-rated dinner spot in the area, a local outpost of ‘THE PIG’ hotel group. In my mind, I imagined somewhere called ‘THE PIG’ was a cosy little village pub with local beers on tap, a roaring fireplace, but only offering food if the chef can be roused from their early evening nap and wasn’t too drunk. And so, I drove to dinner, mentally choosing between the microwaved burger or shepherd’s pie I expected to see on the menu. You can imagine my surprise when our car turned into a very grand driveway and we appeared to be approaching a stately home which wouldn’t have been out of place in Downton Abbey.
They weren’t kidding when they say Bridge Place is historic. The precise age of the house was a matter of debate between the receptionists – one said 1632, another 1638, but we got the gist: pretty damn old. We were ushered through oak-panelled and portrait-laden hallways of long deceased, disgruntled men to the restaurant and I had that horrible feeling that I’d drastically underdressed.
We were handed over to a waiter who guided us outside to a spot with a stunning view of the garden. The style of the restaurant is a definitive taste-of-England fine dining experience. The food is locally sourced at THE PIG, with nearly everything from within a 25-mile radius. The vegetables are all grown in the garden and, as the waiter put rather dramatically, “the garden touches every plate.” The only item I could see that wasn’t within the radius limit was the 10oz salt aged sirloin. The waiter explained that “we didn’t want you miss out on the best.” I’m not sure what they are implying about the cows in Kent, which I am sure are delightful. However, given the quality of the food we had, I think I would trust their judgement.
We started with three out of the four plant-based dishes on the menu: the ‘Truffle Asterix Celeriac,’ the beetroot with goat cheese and the asparagus. All of it tasted exceptional, with just a few subtle earthy hints. We were informed that the vegetables had been picked that morning – and from the freshness you could certainly tell. The standout was the flavourful celeriac, which was accompanied by toasted cobnuts and mustard cress.
For our mains, my girlfriend chose the salmon, which had been smoked on site (of course) in THE PIG’s very own smoking room, accompanied by the foraged nettled salsa risotto. I had selected the chargrilled pork chop in a mustard sauce and ordered a glass of the Sangiovese to go alongside it. There were a few vegetables mixed in, but more to add colour to the plate rather than really contributing to one of your five a day. I was so absorbed by the chop and the delightful red wine, I had almost entirely forgotten about the thrice cooked chips I had ordered. I used these to mop up the remainder of the mustard sauce.
We were so defeated by the excellent starter and main, we couldn’t stomach a dessert. Although for next time, I have ear-marked the dark chocolate mousse with raspberries, which our neighbours had ordered and quickly polished off. Instead, we settled up and went for a stroll around the grounds and the gardens to see what else Bridge Place had to offer. A few guests, who were clearly staying the night, had bedded into a cosy, and what looked like a well-stocked, bar. There was a cute drawing room, filled with old books – I am sure you can imagine: leather bound editions of Who’s Who 1972 and that sort of thing. There was also a spa treatment which guests could arrange.
In short, Bridge Place looked like the perfect weekend getaway, and with our bill coming to £72.50 for three starters, two mains and a glass of wine, dinner at THE PIG isn’t going to clean you out entirely. We were almost reluctant to drive off at the end of the evening, but left full, satisfied and already planning a time to return for a blissful weekend escape from London.
Bourne Park Road