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THE PIG NEAR BATH by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O'Sullivan

I'm at the Pig near Bath. My room looks out over mature trees and a patchwork of green fields. I push up the sash windows, breathe in the clean Mendips air, and take my coffee back to bed, a vast, pencil-post affair buried under a cloud of white linen. Shall I draw the roll-top bath at the foot of the bed or go for the large monsoon shower in the immaculate bathroom? Mustn’t take too long – the retro alarm clock on the bedside table tells me it’s already 9am and I don’t want to miss breakfast

I know it sounds as if I’m in a wildly expensive country house hotel. And yes, this gracious 17th-century building 20 minutes from both Bath and Bristol used to house just that sort of establishment (I know – I stayed here years ago when it was Hunstrete House Hotel). But in March this year it was transformed into The Pig Near Bath, the third in a chain of boutique hotels that are all about laid-back luxury at affordable prices, the brainchild of by a clever chap called Robin Hutson, founder of Hotel du Vin in the nineties. There are gilt-framed portraits on the walls and gum boots for guests to borrow in the hall.

My ‘Big, Comfy, Luxe’ room is the most expensive at £219 at weekends (£199 midweek), but ‘Snug’ rooms cost from £169 at weekends (£139 midweek), with several categories in between. Freestanding bath apart, the main difference between the rooms is size - all are gorgeous, designed in a clever mix of both shabby and rustic chic with a dollop of retro glamour – Piggy chic, in other words – by Robin’s talented wife Judy.

Like the other Pigs (a fourth, The Pig on the Beach in Studland, Dorset, was added to the litter in June), the emphasis at The Pig Near Bath is on local food, much of it grown in the hotel’s own kitchen gardens, the rest sourced from within a 25-mile radius. Chef Jamil Oseka is assisted by a forager and a kitchen gardener and menus change, he says, not so much daily as hourly, depending on what is at its best.

After you have wandered round the walled kitchen garden, go and say hello to the hotel’s little family of pigs. These particular pigs are not for eating, though pork does feature strongly on the menu: the signature dish is Bath Chap, or pigs’ cheek, covered with crackling and served with garden apple sauce. There’s lots for non-piggy diners, too, including an enticing starters section called Literally Picked This Morning. With so many tempting dishes on the menu, you will, inevitably, make quite a pig of yourself.

The Pig Near Bath has a great bar (make sure you try the Rhubarb Fizz , The Pig’s signature cocktail) and two cosy sitting rooms, plus a pool room, tennis court and a couple of spa treatment rooms housed in potting sheds in the garden. But there’s no pool, media room, lavish spa or any of the other facilities that bump up the cost of staying at a more traditional country house hotel. Then again, who needs a media room when the whole of Somerset is on the doorstep?

The Pig Near Bath, Hunstrete House, Pensford, Nr Bath, BS39 4NS; 01761 490490; website See website for details of the other Pigs in Brockenhurst, Southampton and Studland.

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