What is it? A large Georgian house in the Mendip Hills, once the lodge to an even grander mansion, the romantic ruins of which can still been seen on the estate. There’s a walled kitchen garden Queen Victoria would be proud of, and an 80-strong herd of deer. Previously a very formal hotel, its latest incarnation is as a relaxed restaurant with rooms. The decor is mock-Victorian, with prints and lithographs everywhere, trompe l’oeil bookcases, even a damp patch painted on the ceiling. Portraits of someone else’s ancestors and papier-mâché antlers on the walls are all part of the joke. The twinkling bar hums with possibility; cheerful and attentive staff in jeans, pink shirts and ties will bring you exactly what you want, however you want it.
Behind the scenes Robin Hutson, mastermind of the original Hotel du Vin group and latterly The Pig in the New Forest and Southampton’s Pig in the Wall, is the brains behind the unpretentious, fun ethos. The head gardener, Hutson’s son Ollie, has reared every seedling with the care of a parent (there’s even a hospital for house plants). As with the other, deeply successful Pigs, this place is pitched to the populace; it’s a brilliant country-house experience for everyone.
Sleep All 29 rooms are big and have lovely country or garden views. The best of them is The Hide, a two-storey cottage in the garden overlooking the deer park. This is stripped-back luxe, nothing cluttered or fussy. Beds are huge and made up with crisp white cotton sheets; bathrooms have roll-top baths and generous showers.
Eat Painted in muted greeny-greys, the restaurant is part dining room and part greenhouse, with tiny pots of carefully labelled herbs on every available surface. The 25-mile-radius menu has a map of local producers, and every plate has something from the garden on it. Fans of the original Pigs will recognise the ‘Piggy bits’ (crackling with apple sauce; home-smoked ham) to nibble on, and there’s a salad section called ‘literally picked this morning’. Mains are meat-heavy: rabbit comes ‘Kentucky’ fried, and ‘The Pig’s Extraordinary Bath Chap’ is a succulent whole pig cheek covered in crispy skin. The wine menu is impressive and mostly under £50 (although there’s plenty for those with plastic to flex), with a whole section dedicated to interesting organics and biodynamics. The attitude-free sommeliers will guide you through it.
Who comes here? With Bath seven miles and Bristol 12 miles away, this is a great place for city folk to come and collapse, even just for an evening drink. The exceptional Sunday lunch is a draw for local families. Foodies and the eco-minded will like the whole Pig philosophy.
We like The attitude: the air is fresh inside and out. Staff are positive, attentive and make you feel at home instantly.
We don’t like It could do with a few extras such as iPod docks, and a slightly more generous hand with the bathroom goodies would go a long way.
While you’re here Ask for a tour of the garden and you’ll want to grow your own edible chrysanthemums. Make friends with the Colombian blacktail hens and the pet miniature pigs. Have a massage with Bamford products in one of the two Potting Shed treatment rooms. Take a stroll through the Stanton Drew stone circle. Visit lovely Wells for its cathedral and produce-perfect Saturday market, or Bath for the Thermae Bath Spa, Bertinet cookery school and brilliant independent shops such as Vintage to Vogue.
Address: Hunstrete House, Hunstrete, Pensford, Bath
Telephone: +44 1761 490490
Price: Doubles from £139; from £169 at weekends