We only had lunch at The Pig but I’ve put this review under Accommodation rather than Destination; it’s a restaurant with rooms.
The Pig’s special offer for their Gardeners Autumn Gold lunches – 2 courses for £25 and 3 for £29.50 – seemed too good to miss as I’ve wanted to see inside the beautiful building and its walled kitchen garden since it opened; we often go past it on our walks from Bridge to Bishopsbourne, outside Canterbury. It’s one of several Pigs around the country and this one is in a beautifully restored Grade 2 Listed Jacobean house in Bridge, a village a couple of miles from Canterbury. In the 1960’s and 70’s Bridge Place was infamous for its parties and music, with gigs by groups including Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, Pink Floyd and Manfred Mann. As a teenager living nearby I’d have loved to have gone there but had to be content with the ballroom at Dreamland in Margate: later Bridge Place was a country club and hosted over 30’s nights. It is now a restaurant with rooms – 7 in the main house, 12 in the Coach House and various lodges for families, hop pickers’ huts built on stilts and a barn in the grounds.
We arrived early for our 2.30 pm reservation as we wanted to see the kitchen garden but it’s rather large so only had time for a brief look before heading inside the main building. We were led downstairs to the light filled restaurant and shown to our table next to a glazed door through which we could see part of the garden. The restaurant was filled to capacity and the noise of so many diners tallking was extremely loud, there being no soft furnishings of any kind to deaden the sound, but it was lovely seeing so many people enjoying themselves. Shelves containing jars of bottled fruit and pickled vegetables line the walls, bunches of dried flowers hang from hooks and there are displays of dried corn husks and various plants in terracotta pots. Vintage kitchenware, mismatched crockery, industrial style light fittings and old signs completed what I would call a ‘modern rustic’ look. With its open service area diners can see the chefs working in the kitchen. The dining experience was very relaxed, there’s no dress code, just whatever diners feel comfortable wearing. We had to ask the waiter for a set lunch menu as there were only a la carte menus on the table. At the top of the menu were six what were called ‘piggy bits’ – things like crackling and apple sauce, which my son fancied – but these obviously were not included in the set menu so he had this as a starter and 2 other courses. When the waiter came for our orders we all had trouble hearing what he said, and vice versa, but we managed. From memory there were 4 or 5 starters; I ordered beef hash served with a fried hens egg on top surrounded by an HP sauce, my husband had local roast parsnips with a blue cheese dressing; both were delicious. I then had a carrot and pearl barley risotto, my husband had venison meatballs and my son ordered steak, at a supplement, with chips and garden salad. The chocolate desserts my husband and I ordered were large and extremely rich. My son ordered the cheese board, again at a supplement! We let him get away with it as he’d had a cataract operation earlier in the week. The cheapest wines were £11 a glass, the most expensive, over £600 a bottle. Tap water is automatically brought to the table and drinks not on the wine list are brought down from the bar. All the food was delicious and the service was extremely professional – efficient and friendly.
We could have had after lunch drinks served upstairs in the bar which would have meant we could have seen more of the house but we were running out of daylight time and opted instead to tour the kitchen garden. As we crossed the bridge over a stream that runs through the garden the first thing we saw were several terracotta rhubarb forcers and further on a very large fruit cage. The water table here is very high and the whole garden was looking amazing with raised beds and rows and rows of different vegetables – salad leaves, kale, chard, carrots, onions, parsnips and much more – and a great variety of herbs that tested our plant recognition skills. As it was late October there were plenty of colourful squash still waiting to be used. In the middle of the garden is an outdoor kitchen with pizza oven for cooking the flatbreads that are on the garden menu in the summer, something I’d like to try next year. There’s also a greenhouse and a building for growing mushrooms on site. Everything is immaculately maintained and a credit to the gardeners who grow so much wonderful produce for the chefs to use in their menus. We will return (the Autumn Gold set lunches are available until 8 December) and next time I’d like to see more of the interior of this gorgeous house.