Not another fabulous weekend! Never ones to fall for a pig in a poke, yet based on recommendations alone we daringly accept an invite to lunch on the eve of the 13th Sunday After Trinity at the unknown terrain of The Pig somewhere beyond Canterbury. We haven’t been this excited since the Montenegrin Government invited Forbes Magazine and Lavender’s Blue to cover their burgeoning tourism economy. Thankfully, this part of Kent turns out to live up to its reputation as the Garden of England. Or in The Pig’s case, the Kitchen Garden of England. The only sow’s ears are on the metal pigs guarding the entrance door. This restaurant and rooms are one of a litter of eight scattered across the English riviera. Definite articled single animals are the whole rage in hospitality nomenclature these days. There’s The Dog (much raved about gastro in Wingham near Bridge). Or The Newt (hotel of the media moment in Bruton, Somerset). Then The Rabbit (a retake of the late 20th century former Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick, County Antrim).
Lunch at The Pig is on a vast verandah and we mean vast. We’re soon persuaded to join the 25 Mile Wide Club, a long held ambition. Our menu is sourced from within a 40 kilometre radius. Suppliers include Kent Crisps (1.5 kilometres away); Simpsons Wine Estate (four kilometres); Core Farm Juice (6.5 kilometres); The Cheesemakers of Canterbury (12 kilometres); Ellies Dairy (25 kilometres); The Potato Shop (32 kilometres); and Turners Cider (39 kilometres). The rule is somewhat bent by inclusion of the Glenarm Estate (610 kilometres away in Northern Ireland) but Lord Dunluce does deliver the best beef in Britain. We pig out on all four courses of honking good portions, going the whole hog. Our starter is sourced from four metres away: the verandah overlooks the Mushroom House. Later, coffee comes with – what else? – piggy fours. Postprandial drinks are served while we’re resting our trotters on fashionably weathered timber deckchairs on the lawn. How very Lavender’s Blue. Post postprandial drinks are on the beach later, watching another Turner sunset, gazing wistfully towards Calais.
Bridge Place as The Pig was once known is a Grade II* Listed Building. The Listers state: “An L shaped building which is all that remains of a large mansion built by Sir Arnold Braems in the late 17th century, the remainder having been demolished… between 1704 and 1729. Red brick. Brick pilasters flank each window bay. Bracketed wood eaves cornice. Brick stringcourse. Steeply pitched hipped tiled roof. The north or entrance front has two and a half storeys. Two hipped dormers… Five windows, irregular, with mostly casements with wooden mullions and transoms, some small square leaded panes but two bung sash windows with glazing bars. Some of the windows at the east end are dummies and were probably blocked when sash windows were inserted in the east front. Rusticated stone doorway with keystone. The east front has two storeys, attic and basement. Four windows and two hipped dormers, windows having glazing bars and hung sashes. The interior has unusual carved cornices in two rooms and two painted stone fireplaces.” And what an architectural remainder! The gloriously atmospheric interiors are jazzed up with clubby antiques.
Framed flyers next to the Burlington Patent Cisterns in the timber beamed cellar bathrooms are a reminder of the former life of the house: “Bridge Place Country Club. Dance or drink, and if you wish, dine in this picturesque old manor. You may drink longer with our supper license. Ladies may come unescorted if they wish: many do!” Forthcoming attractions in 1968 included The Christmas Carnival, Boxing Night Ball and a New Year’s Eve Party with guest musicians Spencer Davis and Long John Baldry. The Pig continues this partying tradition for the escorted and the unescorted, revving it up a notch or two. As the Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism Pavle Radulović informed us over dinner in Podgorica: “It’s all about knowing how to cater for the needs of high net worth individuals.” We’ve a feeling this isn’t our last fabulous weekend visiting The Pig at Bridge!