Pigging Out – At the Pig near Bath

For my Birthday this year I decided to check out The Pig near Bath. It is a boutique hotel (near Bath, funnily enough) with a restaurant that prides itself on its ’25 mile menu’. Ever since it opened last year I’ve fantasised about spending a weekend there – lazing around in the ‘Potting Shed’ spa, gorging myself on food in the ‘Greenhouse’ restaurant, and then retiring to one of their luxurious but rustic bedrooms for the night. Alas, the whole package is a bit out of my price-range for the moment, but myself and my family did definitely gorge ourselves in the restaurant – and it was wonderful.

Firstly i’ll apologise for the grainy, bad quality photos – the lighting in the restaurant is more conducive to romanic, cosy meals than good-quality food photos (as it should be). So i’ll have to try and woo you into going with descriptions rather than pictures – and if you check out their website here that will give you a pretty good idea too.

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Onto the food: What caught my eye straight away was the ‘Piggy Bits’. Above the starters on the menu, and £3.75 each, these were the equivalent of a bar snack in size. Pretty much all incorporating pig in some way, these were my idea of heaven! We chose 3 and shared them out – from left to right on above photo: Crackling with Apple Sauce, Honey & Chilli Pork Belly Bites, and Ham hock Scotch Eggs. The pork belly was ridiculously good, and therefore not big enough 😉 – sticky and sweet with a hint of heat from the chilli – I knew then I would be going home happy! The crackling was crisp and salty and more-ish, and the apple sauce contrasted perfectly. The scotch eggs had runny yolks and crispy outers – just as they should.

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It was then on to starters. I had Venison Hash & Crispy Hen Egg with a Pickled Garden Salad. Crispy eggs are an excellent invention – not to be confused with another eggy marvel, the scotch egg (invented at fortnum & mason’s in the 1700’s apparently – see sidebar), a crispy egg doesn’t have any meat, it’s a soft-boiled egg coated in breadcrumbs – Yum. The venison hash was rich and went well with the egg, the crispy outer giving the dish an extra texture. Dad had the platter of cured Mendip Meats which came with sourdough bread and chutney, and lots of little pickled bits, like caper berries. I tried a bit (in the name of research of course), and in my opinion these local meats were just as good and tasty as any you’d find in Italy or Spain, and it’s great that they’re so local! The OH had the standout starter of the evening though – Sweet & Sour Tripe (not pictured – it went too quickly). Neither of us had tried tripe before, but the OH very sensibly decided if he was going to try it, here would be a good place, and he was right – delicious.

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Ashamed to say I was already getting full by this point – I must have gorged myself too much on the piggy bits, but I soldiered on nonetheless and had a Rabbit Escalope with lentils, capers, lemon and parmesan – a winning combo. Mum had Lamb cutlets with a lamb ‘bonbon’ – breadcrumbed of course. It was given the thumbs-up. We ordered some of their triple-cooked chips which came in a flowerpot but tasted lovely, and also some of their steamed garden greens. It’s nice to know that so much of the produce has come from just outside in their kitchen garden – just a shame it was too dark to see any of it (we’ll have to go back for lunch some time).

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By the time we got to desserts I was seriously stuffed. Dad managed a New York-style cheesecake flavoured with rosemary (from the garden of course) and the OH ordered some ‘Piggy Fours’ (their version of petit fours) which included homemade fudge. I felt I had to have something but it needed to be VERY light and small – step forward the ‘Shot of Foragers sorbet’ – at £3.50 this was the cheapest dessert option too, the rest being £7.00 (the piggy fours were £4.50). This was very refreshing and light, with the added bonus of popping candy on top! It also had a biscuit in the shape of a pig, with ‘Happy Birthday’ on it 🙂

Our waiter had found out during the meal that it was my birthday (and commented on how young I looked for my age, so I already liked him!), and he also overheard us mentioning how nice it was to see the italian dessert wine Vin Santo on the menu (I once had an italian boyfriend whose family made it), so when he brought out my birthday sorbet, he also brought us out a glass each on the house!

This is a good example of the excellent service we received all night, and it really helped to make the evening special and memorable. Our waiter was attentive all evening without being overbearing, and obviously knew the menu well enough to offer suggestions on the food. They also had a dedicated sommelier to help further with wine.

The only negative point I can think of about the restaurant is the lack of vegetarian options (there were about three, including starters), but I suppose with a name like ‘The Pig’ it’s not that surprising…

I think a trip out to The Pig for Sunday Lunch is definitely in order at some point – although they seem to be booked up pretty far in advance – but I can just see myself lazing on a sofa in the snug with coffee and petit fours, and wandering around the kitchen garden.

So the moral of this review is – go and be satisfied! (Unless you’re a veggie)

Ladies that Lunch

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Last Friday my mum came over to Bath for the day so we could go to the ‘Great War in Costume’ exhibition at the Fashion Museum (it’s only on till this Sunday – 31st Aug) so go quick if you haven’t seen it!)

It was really interesting, not least because it had costumes from the tv programme ‘Downton Abbey’ as the main attraction. There was also a lot of information about women’s roles during WW1, and suffragettes. The war certainly seemed to help the women’s rights movement – women couldn’t just be the home-makers anymore when there were jobs in factories and on farms to be done. Their clothes changed too – particularly underwear. The old-style corsets couldn’t be worn to do manual jobs, so more fluid styles were created.

It must’ve been strange for women when the war was over and they were expected to go back to their lives at home, and also for the men coming back from the war…

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Some great posters about food during the war – and the dreaded alcoholic drinks!

Anyway, on to the food!

We wanted a nice lunch, but nothing too expensive, so I did a bit of research the day before and looked at lots of set menu’s for restaurants in Bath. There are definitely some good deals to be had, but it all depends on whether you like the look of any of the choices on the menu! More so, because set menu’s tend to only have around three choices per course.

I always like the sound of the menu at The Circus restaurant, but we’d eaten there the last time mum came over for lunch, so I thought somewhere different would be nice.

Allium Brasserie at the Abbey hotel came up with the goods.

Their set menu was £17.50 for two courses or £23.50 for three, and I would’ve happily eaten at least two of the choices on each course – luckily mum agreed!

I also knew the food would look great, having eaten there on my birthday in the past, and the dining room is spacious and attractive – with modern art hanging on the walls.

This is what we ate:

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For starter, I had the Chicken and leek terrine, with pickled mushrooms, a mustard & potato salad, a Caesar dressing (and a bit of crispy chicken skin). This was really tasty, the terrine went well with the pickled mushrooms, and I saved some of their lovely bread to have with it too.

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Mum had what would’ve been my other choice – broad bean and pea salad with feta, lemon, goats curd, and chargrilled courgettes. It tasted as fresh and summery as it sounds (and looks!)

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For the main course I had Pan-fried gnocchi, girolles mushrooms, peas and broad beans, baby artichokes, and a hazelnut & mushroom pesto. This was the standout dish for me – the combination of flavours was great – the freshness of the peas and broad beans with the earthiness of the mushrooms and gnocchi – I may have to try and recreate this at home sometime!

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Mum had roast chicken breast with bacon, peas, carrot, baby gem, and pasta tubes. This tasted almost like a summery stew – quite delicate flavours, but with the richness of the bacon coming through.

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Mum chose to have a glass of prosecco as her ‘dessert’, but I was feeling greedy and went for a proper one (I was also feeling a bit tipsy after the wine we’d already drank so didn’t need anymore alcohol!)

I went off-menu for my dessert and onto the ‘a la carte’ menu. I normally try not to look at the main menu in a restaurant if I’m eating from the set menu, because I always decide I want something from the more expensive one! I didn’t feel too bad doing it this time though, as we’d already got our first two courses for £17.50.

I had a ‘milk tart’ with white peaches and peach sorbet, cinnamon, grated chocolate and mint. This was approximately £8 (it’s not on the menu anymore so I can’t say for certain).

It looked beautiful and tasted good – although I didn’t think it needed all the extra bits. I would’ve been happy without the chocolate and mint, I felt they overpowered the actual tart a bit, as it had quite a subtle flavour. It wasn’t like a traditional tart, it reminded me more of a mille feuille with its very crispy layers of pastry.

As it happened, the dessert ended up being free because it took a long time to get to me in the first place, so that made it a bargain!

We were impressed with the service we received throughout the meal, and particularly when ordering the wine. We had ordered a half-bottle of wine that wasn’t available, and were given a ‘free upgrade’ to the next bottle up, which was delicious – hence the tipsiness…

It’s definitely worth trying the set menu at Allium, as the food looks and tastes lovely, and of course the a la carte menu too, if you’re feeling a bit more flush!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Desserts

On the weekend, the OH and I walked some of the Bath Skyline Walk. This is a 6 mile walk around the outskirts of Bath, featuring hills, fields, woods, a ‘sham castle’ and views of the city. We only had time/energy for about half of it, but managed to fit in all of the above!

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Views of Bath and the ‘Sham Castle’ built in the 18th Century by Ralph Allen, to improve the view from his house!

We took a tub with us in the hope of collecting some blackberries, and we weren’t disappointed.

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Although a lot of the bushes weren’t quite ripe yet, we managed to fill the tub, and eat a couple… In a couple of weeks time I don’t think you’ll be able to move for blackberries on the walk – we may have to go back!

I’d decided to incorporate some blackberries into this week’s bake-off challenge, and because this week we are trying to be healthy-ish (to combat the excesses of the last couple of weeks!), I tried to find a dessert that wasn’t completely naughty.

I remember Crème Caramels were made by the bakers one year, and so decided on one of its distant relatives – the Panna Cotta.

Panna Cotta, the dessert made with mountains of double cream? I hear you. Not what automatically comes to mind when thinking of healthy desserts, but I had a thought it could be made with yoghurt, and a quick search of the internet provided me with a few recipes that seemed to agree with me.

Most seemed to incorporate greek yoghurt with some double cream and milk, so i bought both and had a go….

Now, this didn’t end up as healthy as I’d hoped, because I had to make them twice…  It all tasted lovely the first time round, but didn’t set properly, so was more like a very creamy yoghurt dessert than a set dessert – see photo below!

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I’d followed one recipe in terms of the gelatine to cream/yoghurt ratio, but looking at other recipes they all seem to have more than mine did. So I tried it again, and upped the gelatine content substantially.

This time things looked more promising!

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Flavour-wise, I decided to infuse the cream with some thyme that we had leftover in the fridge, and used honey-flavoured greek yoghurt to add a bit more flavour.The blackberries were great, I just left them fresh, but you could make a coulis with them if you wanted. I also crumbled up a butter galette biscuit to add some texture – a ‘biscuit crumb’, if you will 😉

We ate this for breakfast as it didn’t feel as naughty as a traditional Panna Cotta!

Thyme and Honey ‘Panna Cotta’ with Blackberries

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

3 Gelatine Leaves

175ml Milk

50ml Double Cream

250g Honey-flavoured Greek Yoghurt

20g Caster Sugar

Approx 4 sprigs of Thyme

Blackberries

Put the gelatine leaves into a bowl of iced water and leave to soften for five minutes.

Put the milk, cream, sugar and thyme sprigs into a small pan and bring slowly to the boil.

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Remove the softened gelatine from the iced water, gently squeeze out the excess water and stir into the milk and cream (discarding the thyme sprigs). Remove from the heat and stir until the gelatine has dissolved.

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Pour this mixture through a sieve to get rid of any lumps, and pour into the greek yoghurt slowly, whisking as you go. When thoroughly combined, pour the mixture into your moulds (I used tea cups), cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

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When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the rim of the mould, and briefly dip the mould into hot water to help loosen the panna cotta. Jiggle it around again, repeat if necessary, and gently pull away from the sides with your fingers or a spoon. It will come out eventually! Alternatively, if you can’t or don’t want to get it out you can serve it in the mould/teacup etc – see photo below. It still looks pretty, just slightly less impressive! If turning out, do so onto your serving plate and garnish with blackberries, biscuits, and another small sprig of thyme (if desired).

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This dessert definitely tasted healthier than a normal Panna Cotta, I think the yoghurt gave it a fresher taste, and the thyme made it slightly more savoury. It still tasted good though, and I will definitely be making it again next time I want a ‘lighter’ treat!

Gluttonous Goings-On

Confession: In the past week, I have eaten out five times. Five times! That’s greedy, I apologise…

It was a special week though; 30th birthday celebrations for the OH, seeing an old friend, trying a new restaurant… it was a good week 😉

Here’s some of the places I went and ate:

Saturday 9th Aug

DSCN0083DSCN0073The Walled Garden at Mells

We went on a little excursion last Saturday to Mells – a pretty village not too far from us in Somerset. It has a 17th walled garden with lots of pretty flowers (they do wedding flowers too), and a cafe. In the summer there is also a wood-fired Pizza oven. We sampled a couple of their pizza’s (after a 45 minute wait – it’s a popular place), and they didn’t disappoint 🙂 Mine was a fairly traditional ham and mushroom, but the ham was local, and the mushrooms were porcini. There was also black olives on it. It was a really thin, crispy base – very authentic!

The OH went for a more eclectic mix of ingredients – capers, black olives, raisins and red onion on a cheese and tomato base – strange but delicious (we swapped two slices!) The pizza’s were about £8.50 each which we thought was pretty good. They also serve sandwiches, cakes, tea, coffee etc in the cafe, and I had a Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade.

The garden is really pretty (as is the village in general), definitely worth a visit …

The Walled Garden at Mells

Rectory Garden

Selwood Street

Mells

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Sunday 10th Aug

IMG_20140816_121719 IMG_20140816_121851Bath Artisan Market

We have a couple of friends with pitches at the Bath Artisan Market so popped down to see them- Pitch Twenty Six, Ruth Thorp and (occasionally) StudioQi – all of whom sell great artwork/illustrations/photography so check them out!

Whilst there we got distracted by the smell of food and found Eat Like a Greek – a food stall serving greek food (funnily enough). I had the Halloumi pita wrap which came with salad, balsamic and olive oil, and was delicious. The OH had the pork pita, which came with tzatziki and red onions, and was possibly a bit more delicious than mine – I had to have a few bites to make sure…

The Artisan market always has interesting stalls, and this month didn’t disappoint. I had heard of Henny & Joe’s Chai syrup but hadn’t tried anyway, so when i saw them giving out free samples i pounced. It was predictably tasty, and i had already been seduced by the beauteous bottle it comes in, so I didn’t need much convincing to buy a little bottle. The fact that it is handmade in Bath is a nice thought too!

Bath Artisan Market

Green Park (2nd Sunday of the month)

Bath

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Monday 11th Aug

IMG_20140816_121618Hall & Woodhouse Bath

On Monday I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages 🙂 I took her to hall & Woodhouse in Bath because they do good drinks, pretty good food, and the building is an old auctioneers which is beautiful! I had their special summer cocktail ‘English Country Garden’ (Tanqueray Gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, cloudy apple juice and fresh mint) which was very refreshing, and did look a bit like a garden in a glass 😉

Food-wise I was greedy and had ‘Whole roasted poussin with roast garlic, fries and anchovy mayo’ for £13.50 which was good (if a teeny bit dry in parts) – and pretty sizeable – but I managed to finish it which i’m not sure I should admit!

Hall & Woodhouse Bath

1 Old King St

Bath

BA1 2JW

Tuesday 12th Aug

IMG_20140816_121349#1 IMG_20140816_121528#1Grillstock Bath

I had been meaning to visit Grillstock in Bristol for about a year but somehow never got round to it. Luckily they very kindly opened a branch up in Bath especially for me (pretty sure that was the reason anyway)… So I finally lost my Grillstock virginity hoorah!

For those that don’t know, Grilstock is a southern-style american bbq restaurant (and takeaway). They smoke everything over hickory wood and the menu features pulled pork, burgers, ribs, beef brisket, chicken, hot dogs, and no veg whatsoever – except fries and slaw – this is not a place for vegetarians!

I went for half a rack of ribs (£11) which came with fries, slaw, smoked sausage, and pickles – again i somehow managed to finish it, and it was blinking tasty, the ribs were smoky, sticky and chewy, and i had an alcoholic iced tea to wash it all down with. Good, dirty fun…

The OH and a friend went for the burger (£8) which came in a bun with pulled pork, cheese, pickles and ‘fry sauce’, and also had fries and slaw on the side. I tried this (for research purposes) and it is definitely worth the bargainous £8.

Two guys next to us went for the ‘Grand Champion Challenge’  (‘All Four Meats – Pulled Pork, Brisket, Ribs & Chicken, Burnt Ends, Hot-dog, Bbq Beans, Brisket Chilli & Cornbread’). If you can eat it all in one hour (just one person), you win a bottle of BBQ sauce and Grillstock ‘Grand Champion’ t-shirt. We left before they finished so may never know if either of them were crowned ‘Grand Champion’, but the food was absolutely ridiculous! Made me feel sick just looking at it all – good luck to anyone trying that out in the future…

Grillstock Smokehouse

The Vaults, Southgate

Unit 4

12 Brunel Square

Bath

BA1 1SX

Wednesday 13th Aug

IMG_20140816_121109 IMG_20140816_121212 IMG_20140816_120820Menu Gordon Jones

Now for something a little more refined…

Menu Gordon Jones is a little restaurant in the Wellsway area of Bath, and it is the best restaurant i’ve eaten in, in my 30 years of being. The building itself is an unprepossessing former cafe, it is quite casual inside but with quirky touches – animal skulls on the walls, old chemist’s bottles on the bar. It only has 14 covers a night, so you have to get in quick if you want a table – especially on the weekend!

The menu is non-existent, you state any dietary requirements when booking, and that is all the say you get in what you eat 😉 Gordon Jones conjures up amazing dishes out of whatever food he has from his suppliers that day, and if there in the evening, you get six courses for £50. (For lunch it is five courses for £40).

We have been five times now, and every time I have had a new ingredient, or a new combination of food that i would never have thought of putting together… it’s an experience as well as a delicious meal.

This time it was the OH’s 30th Birthday so we had the wine flight as well (a glass of wine chosen to suit each course) – great experience, but not so great on a school night!

A selection of the dishes we had:

Top photo – Sea Trout, Cauliflower Beetroot Cous Cous, Sour Cherries, Popcorn, and Tomato water.

Middle photo – Tandooi Monkfish, Sea Fennel, Quinoa, Marmalade, Broad Beans, Crispy pastry, and i think Gooseberris!

Bottom photo – Almond Tart with a Creme Brûlée top, Mirabelle (a type of yellow plum) sorbet and soufflé, chocolate orange drops, mini meringues, and slices of Mirabelle plums.

The only thing i don’t love about this restaurant is they serve flavoured water which i’m not a fan of (although i’m sure i could’ve just asked for plain if i was that bothered) – but that’s mega-picky. If Gordon Jones doesn’t get a Michelin Star in the near future I will be v surprised!

 Menu Gordon Jones

2 Wellsway

Bath

BA2 3AQ

Let me know if you’ve eaten anywhere good recently!

Happy Weekending…