Hotel and restaurant review: The Pig at Bridge Place, Canterbury
PUBLISHED: 12:07 11 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:26 06 November 2020
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Kent Life goes the whole hog and stays the night at the newly opened, much-anticipated The Pig at Bridge Place
Kent became home to the latest in the renowned Pig hotel collection on 30 April, the day I rocked up to stay at this elegant 17th-century red-brick manor house in Bridge.
Five other Pigs have opened since 2011, all unique but bearing the hallmarks of shabby chic luxury and understated cool that characterise the style of interior designer Judy Hutson, wife to CEO Robin. This was my first Pig; it's going to be a hard act to follow.
First there's the setting; 10 acres of parkland and water meadows, including a tributary of the River Stour that had been hidden for 30 years until building work revealed it, like a talisman of welcome.
Then there's Bridge Place itself, its entrance guarded by two statues of fat black pigs. Inside, everything is tucked away and not quite where you expect it to be; I kept on 'losing' the restaurant downstairs, but in my defence guv, there are nooks and crannies and secret stairways at every turn.
In the main house - ornately Jacobean, an extraordinary rock n' roll past, with the likes of the Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd all having played here - are seven bedrooms along with numerous cosy bars and sitting areas. There's even a (friendly) ghost, as my dinner guest later reveals, alongside tales of her misspent youth here when it was the Bridge Place Country Club.
My quarters are in the hotel's gardens, where you'll also find seven Hop Pickers Huts made from reclaimed materials, two lodges perfect for families or groups of friends, plus 12 light, spacious rooms in the Coach House. I'm in The Barn, a two-storey hideaway where the generous sitting room has its own wood-burning stove and the showcase bathroom a roll-top bath, monsoon shower - even a chaise longue. But lounging around must wait; I'm keen to explore the grounds, with lovely receptionist Freya as my guide.
There's a truly enviable kitchen garden, which the team started work on eight months prior to opening so that the kitchen would have immediate access to an abundance of seasonal produce.
Other guests were roaming around like me in the afternoon sunshine, admiring the rows of salad leaves, the many varieties of mint, the mushroom house. Anything that can't be grown here is sourced from Kent's finest producers within a 25-mile radius.
I change for dinner, regretting the heels as I teeter across gravel to the main house and realising why the staff all wear sneakers.
My dining partner and I meet for cocktails in a fabulous little bar where rows of jewel-coloured glasses on clear shelves create a stained-glass window effect.
Dinner is enjoyed in the tile-floored, conservatory-style restaurant, where the Hutsons' first open kitchen adds a lively buzz. Mis-matched chairs circle sturdy little tables, a wooden dresser groans under the weight of jars of colourful pickled produce, potted herbs spill out of terracotta pots, a pretty courtyard sits off to one side. It's all utterly glorious.
As is our meal. My companions's ultra-fresh Birchington tomato salad and tangy goat's cheese is elevated to new heights with the addition of lomo (air-dried meat); my home-smoked organic salmon with pickled cucumber and apple cider dressing is a real super star.
To our mains of pinkly pan-fried Hersden Farm venison and perfectly cooked fillet of day boat brill with a zesty lemon hollandaise we add a smattering of garden-fresh sides: thyme-roasted beetroot, minted Jersey royals, rocket and foraged nettles.
The artisan cheeseplate tempts, but we both opt for a sweet finale: a light, wobbly garden mint blancmange, a chocolate mousse with tickleberries and Wealden rum that is its dark, decadent opposite. Coffee arrives with dessert, but it's a minor blip; the young staff are super-keen, super-smiley and want you to love The Pig as much as they clearly do.
And after a blissful night's sleep where the only sound is birdsong on waking, followed by an elegant breakfast of avocado and poached egg on Folkestone sourdough and a pot of good strong coffee, I too am truly under its spell.
What: Country house restaurant with rooms and its own kitchen garden
Where: The Pig at Bridge Place, Bourne Park Road, Bridge, Canterbury CT4 5LF
When: Lunch 12-2.45pm, dinner 6.30-9.30pm; breakfast residents only 7-10am Mon-Fri, 7.30-10.30am Sat and Sun
How much: Picked Dover crab £19, slow-braised lamb neck £23, puddings £7.50, cheese plate £12.50
Meet the Kamil Oseka, head chef
Tell us a bit about you
I started training to be a chef at 16 in Poland, before relocating to England 10 years later. I joined the Pig team in 2011, just before we opened The Pig in Brockenhurst and then went on to be Head chef at The Pig-near Bath. I've always loved feeding people and watching their reactions to good food while talking to them. Working at Bridge Place with the open-plan kitchen is my dream come true.
Your favourite dish on the menu?
Smoked salmon with pickled cucumber and apple cider dressing. Head of Chefs James Golding gave me the recipe and it's delicious. James and I built the smoke house together and it's where we smoke our organic salmon.
Top cookery tip for our readers?
Roast a bulb of garlic in the oven. It's then easier to peel, has a greater depth of flavour and mixes in well to soup or sauces.
Who has influenced you?
Both James Golding and Angela Hartnett have influenced me hugely in my career. I've worked with James for 12 years and learnt so much standing by his side. In the last five years I have worked with Angela to expand my knowledge further and she has been a fantastic, fun mentor.
Your breakfast this morning?
Double espresso and a banana.
Who would you like to cook for?
I've cooked for many of my idols, including Marco Pierre White, Nicholas Cage, Heston Blumenthal, Mark Hix and Raymond Blanc, but I would love to cook for Gordon Ramsey to see how he reacts.