It was a chilly, autumnal weekend and time to fly back south for a very fleeting visit. When it comes to a big family celebration the food is key, and this weekend was no exception. So, it was off to The Pig, near Bath for a birthday special - Sunday lunch.
The Pig is a truly charming country estate hotel burrowed away in the Somerset countryside, surrounded by galloping deer, clucking chickens and a tranquil kitchen garden. Just like its predecessors, in Hampshire and Dorset, 'The Pig near Bath' is exquisitely decorated, with an extremely strong and authentic attention to detail. On entering the grounds you immediately escape the outside world and enter the rural and shabby charm of the estate.
After a quick nose around the rustic manor house - cosy little sitting rooms and libraries, banquet hall, bar - and a splash of Bollinger we were taken to our table set in the middle of the main dining room and greenhouse area.
The Pig offers the "25 mile Menu" - a menu composed almost exclusively of ingredients from within the 25 mile radius.
We kicked things off with a selection of 'Piggy Bits' including ham-hock eggs - a twist on the retro scotch egg this was moist and rich with flakey roast ham encasing a soft and creamy quails egg, and drizzled with a punchy homemade piccalli.
The venison meatballs lathered in a tomato rich ragu, and crispy pork belly nibbles were equally impressive.
Finally the black pudding balls were uncharacteristically light; their deep richness was perfectly complimented by the sweet yet tart apple sauce and crispy coating. The bacon jam on toast was sticky-sweet, and wholesome with the familiar and warming flavour of bacon matched by the crispy toast and moist jam.
Next it was onto our main courses. The slow roasted shoulder and loin of pork was the perfect sunday roast - the best bits of a pork joint - accompanied by a dainty pail of creamy and sweet mustard gravy, and crowned with a monstrous yorkshire pudding, fluffy roast potatoes and tender broccoli.
Next was the pan fried loin of venison with celeriac puree and baby carrots. The intensely rich yet lean and tender cut was not overshadowed by the sweet puree, carrots and jus.
The pan fried South Coast Hake on a bed of organic pumpkin puree, and topped with a brown shrimp butter sauce was beautifully light whilst still vibrant and indulgent.
And a birthday just isn't a birthday without cake! This came in the form of a rich and mousse-like chocolate cake with a wild thyme ice-cream. The herb's warm and earthy scent mellowed the cocoa richness of the cake. Its strong flavour was mellowed by the cream and light scattering of biscuit crumb.
We also ordered the maple mouse and caramelised apple, speared with a spiced biscuit. This was toffee apple sweet, sticky and punctuated by the stab of dark and spicy biscuit.
Finally... a shot of Forager's sorbet - berry sharp, a sweet and refreshing finish to the meal.
Feeling rather pleased with ourselves we pottered around the gardens and fields.
Such an incredible lunch and day out.
I am an amateur cook blogging about the food I eat and cook, and my travels along the way.