Of course I was always going to love The Pig. The Pig is everything I want to be. The Pig is what I would call a restaurant of my own. And The Pig is the pet animal that’s in my back-garden that I’ve had an unhealthy obsession with since the age of 3. I LOVE a PIG. It’s bottomless appetite, its unashamed greed & its weakness to roll over at a hint of a belly-rub. A pig loves meringues & sunbathing. A pig is cleaver & resourceful in the way it eats. A pig isn’t dirty. And to be called a ‘pig’ should never be taken as an insult. If a pig was a week-day, it would be a Sunday. For all of these reasons, along with its knock-out reputation & my love for its namesake, The Pig was the obvious choice for a Sunday night break.
The Jurassic Coast of Dorset is breathtakingly rugged. It’s threatening yet enticing & standing on a cliff edge sees you torn between leaning over to see the perilous scene below and keeping strictly 2 feet back to avoid plummeting to a dramatic death. Unpolished & vast cliffs replace the dated seaside towns en-route & the old chain ferry takes you steadily across the water where Mother Nature has truly done some of her meanest… Studland Bay, where The Pig on The Beach sits omniscient, overlooking the untamed coast out to the chalky ruins of Old Harry Rocks, is an area of obvious natural beauty. A cold January Sunday still saw it lusciously green & the otherwise drab grey turn gothic. And The Pig sits up high, like a benevolent, eccentric Uncle waiting to give you a cigar & a dram of fine Whisky once you’ve come in from your coastal walk & knocked off your wellies.
A belated Birthday gift for an inconveniently timed Christmas-Eve-born boyfriend-at-the-time, The Pig was little more than a clever ploy to treat myself. I’d heard nothing but rave reviews from people in the food industry & The Pig seemed to be popping up more often than not on my radar. On paper, it sounded like all I wanted in a man, sorry…restaurant. Dedication to ethically sourcing ingredients, supporting local producers & suppliers, using produce from their own Market Garden, efforts in being sustainable & having a policy of sourcing all produce within a 25 mile radius to make interesting, evolving menus. Now to anyone who doesn’t work in the food industry, this sounds like a jolly nice idea. But to anyone who knows just what goes in to creating consistently good food & drink in an effort to make an establishment successful, this sounds almost impossible. And if I’m honest, I’m unsure as to whether The Pig really does source everything from within 25 miles. Truthfully, I didn’t ask. Because I was having too much of a great time to really care if the sponge from my Rhubarb Cake was made using the eggs from the fancy blue chickens strutting about on the manicured lawn. What is obvious though, is that they certainly try. And that, for me, is plenty.
Luke, the man in the know, welcomed us so warmly that it almost seemed as though he’d lit the fire just for us. He knew our names, he knew why we were visiting and he knew our dinner reservations. It’s touches like this that seem so obvious & yet this is the ONLY place I’ve visited in the past…eternity, that has managed to really grasp this. It’s nothing; but it’s everything. After showing us to our bijou bedroom over-looking the Studland coast enough of Sunday had passed without a drink in hand. We had to set this right.
Although no draught beers or ales, The Pig have a well-selected range of bottled brews served in vessels from metal tankards with glass bottoms to oversized jam jars. The bar staff were unassumingly knowledgable & genuinely lovely! I happily accepted the offer of a double Gin once nudged by the convincing barman (like I needed convincing!) Things snowballed quickly after this & soon we were 5 cocktails down playing Jenga with another couple whilst our impending dinner reservations loomed & we sat still dressed in our walking gear & trainers. We were comfy, we were content & we had no desire to be anywhere else. To me, that’s a job well done.
I was never going to let anything other than a lengthly 3 Courses, Wine then Whiskey pass my lips! I’d come with a game plan & I was goddamn going to execute it. Amongst the humble yet unique interior of the Orangery & it’s flora & fauna in terracotta pots sat our table, upon which the daily-changing menu waited like a multiple choice exam that I knew none of the questions to but was sure the answer was all of them. Decisions on my behalf consisted of the Roast Garden Artichoke & Smoked Woolsery Salad followed by a Braised Dorset Beef Shin & Charred Shallots. With the Market Garden nurturing home-grown produce visible from where I sat, I couldn’t resist such an obvious farm-to-fork offering as the artichokes, which are already up-there on my list of favourite veggies. And Sundays for me are all about the Red Meat & Red Wine, with the staff jumping right in with Wine Recommendations which were on the mark. With some gentle nudging (and heavy hinting) my boyfriend opted for Pressed Poole Bay Mackerel followed by a Marinated Purbeck Lamb Leg with Spiced Yoghurt. We went to town on the fresh bread accompanied by herb oils and spreadably soft butter (SO many places can’t seem to grasp that butter needs to be a certain consistence to be spread!) which the smiley waitress made a point of showing us. It’s these little touches that make an diner feel relaxed.
My starter was as you’d imagine a fresh, seasonal, interesting dish to be. With gentle contrast between warm and cold, along with the tender artichoke and crisp leaves, this dish was a perfect winter entree. The creaminess of the cheese was counterbalanced with a crispiness from buckwheat which created a beautiful texture. The Mackerel was raw with a punchy yet light flavour that only comes from the freshest of fresh fish. The Chicory & Sorrel leant the dish some strong flavours to off-set the Mackerel and proved to be aesthetically beautiful causing a stir of food-envy for just a moment (I obviously jumped in to try it before the plate had hit the table!)
The staff kept our Wine flowing & the Mains arrived with our well-selected sides of Roast Parsnips & Buttered Kale. If asked to choose, I honestly couldn’t pick between the Beef or the Lamb. Both dishes were so well executed that, although STUFFED, I could’ve eaten them all over again. Harry mentioned that there may have been a little too much yoghurt marinating the Lamb but I’m partial to more rather than less & thought the flavour of the Lamb was balanced nicely with the cool and spice. The meat, both Lamb & Beef, was top quality and cooked to tender perfection! I don’t think I could’ve been happier than with a fork-full of succulent Beef, sweet shallot, soft-flesh swede & a glass of red surrounded by potted chilli plants perched on that Dorset cliff-edge!
There was a pudding that I’d already made a silent vow to. I had only seen one word & had committed: Rhubarb. The first of the seasons forced Rhubarb was served with Sponge & warm Rhubarb Stems. And GOD was it good. The second dessert to the table was a Set Custard which didn’t particularly give me much flavour. I think it could’ve been slightly sweeter but the texture was beautiful. However, I didn’t care. I was sat there stupidly smug with my Rhubarb Sponge, a satisfied stomach & only a small flight of stairs between me & BED.
The Pig’s got it nailed. They balance delicious, well-sourced food without being pretentious or preaching; attentive, friendly staff without being stuffy or intrusive; a unique, luxurious interior without being too whacky or intense. This really is a bloody gem in the Jurassic Coastline which EVERYONE should pay a visit. And it’s left me with just one question…Can I rent a room?