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Pig & Sty

Oink Oink, listen up - The Pig & Sty, part of the Elite Pub group has just opened its doors and so we took our trotters down there to check it out...

Have we got news for you! The Pig & Sty, part of the Elite Pub group that includes The Potting Shed in Langley, has just opened its doors and so it was of immediate importance that we took our trotters down there to check it all out on your behalf.

THE LOCATION

Set in the pretty village of Bethersden, eight miles from Ashford, you do feel that you are in the heart of quintessential Kent countryside, not least helped by the fact that the house where they filmed, Darling Buds of May, is a few miles away. I know it sounds highly mundane, but the car park is VAST which I always think is quite helpful to know if heading to a country pub knowing that you won’t have to park up half a mile down the road, especially if you have little or elderly legs in tow.

THE VIBE

Let me confess that I was a little sceptical pre-arrival as pubs that are part of a chain often don’t always get it right in terms of vibe front, in my humble opinion, with tell-tale signs such as permanent chalk on blackboards normally giving the game away. However, I am prepared to say that I have now been well and truly contradicted.

It’s obvious that the team here know their stuff and have cleverly crafted a space that feels like a local boozer, within the beautiful Grade II listed public house with traditional fireplaces that you step into upon arrival, which then breaks out into a huge conservatory area. Dogs are welcome in the ‘pub’ part so there was a good mix of people who had been walking in the area and had stopped for a bite to eat.

The Pig theme is conducted nicely throughout with a local artist asked to etch ‘pig pictures’ straight onto the walls which is MUCH prettier than it sounds alongside funky seating, exposed brickwork and Dering windows which looks out onto a huge garden space and fields beyond. Food theatre and alluring smells greet you as soon as you step into the dining area with an artisan wood-fire pizza oven serving steaming hot sourdough pizzas.

You should also ask your waiter to show you the Rocking Horse room which has been created to reflect a quirky workshop and showcase pieces from Stevenson Brothers (the world famous rocking horse creators), complete with a Rocking Horse hanging from the rafters above you, which adds a novel element of danger to your meal, and this can be hired for private events so a party room with a twist.

With 85 covers in total across the whole restaurant, it could be a daunting space to fill but it was buzzy and busy considering it was a Wednesday lunchtime.

SCOFF & QUAFF

The only issue here is where to begin? Will Freeman is at the helm here, chef wise, having come from one of Elite’s other establishments in Kent, The Dirty Habit, and before that, he was at one of Muddy favourites, The Beacon in Tunbridge Wells so you are in safe hands.

You can tell that a lot of time has been invested in crafting a menu that will cover most palates and all ages. Elderly relation in tow? No problem. They can head towards the traditional fish & chips with mushy peas? Snobby foodie with you? No bother – they could go for the Rye bay stone bass with Kentish new potato, cavalo nero, samphire & brown shrimp butter sauce. Or is there a sulky teen in your midst? Well they can enjoy a sourdough pizza from its artisan wood fired oven. From the crazy toppings (The Pig on Fire – spicy Nduja, piri piri chicken, roquito pepper, mozzarella, thyme) to the all-time favourite classics, there is sure to be something there to put a smile on their face.

Since my dining partner and I were none of the above, we shared Vegan harissa & sesame falafels with tzatziki, red cabbage and flatbread as a starter, which tickled our taste buds, and it was good to see plenty of other strong vegan and gluten-free choices on the menu.

My friend then moved onto Kentish wild duck breast, potato fondant, shaggy parasol mushrooms, kale, garlic puree & truffle jus which is a great example of the higher end of dishes available at The Pig & Sty. Between enthusiastic mouthfuls, she managed to tell me that ‘it was a wonderful mix of textures and flavours’ so one happy piglet there.

I went for the Piri-Piri chicken which had the wow factor as it balanced precariously on a skewer above my plate and came with flat breads, lime aioli & red cabbage slaw and some mighty fine sweet potato fries.

For pudding, we opted for the classic Sticky toffee pudding, which was executed to perfection, alongside a mango crème brulee with a gingerbread biscuit. Vegans are well catered too in the pudding department and our next-door diners had gone for a very eye-catching Vegan saffron & raspberry trifle with vanilla sponge and maple granola.

Since it was Wednesday lunch time and we were inches away from school pick-up, I cannot share any Quaffing experience with you but I did spy a very well equipped drinks menu with more than twenty-five gins to choose from, and if you really want to experiment, they have a fully trained cocktail maker who can create a concoction for you. They also got brownie points from me for their selection of more adventurous wines (alongside the classics), that are a little different from the norm, including wines from Hungary and Uruguay.

KID FRIENDLY?

Absolutely! Not only will your kids have a field day in its lovely playground in an idyllic setting – horses chomping on grass and cantering around in the fields beyond – but they will also love the cute pig paraphrenia about the place too and the theatrical setting of the place, plus there is a great kiddie menu with plenty of options – e.g. pizzas, pasta, fish and chips. You get my drift. They also get a thumbs up from me for allocating two different costs for toddlers (£4) and children up to 12 years (£6) recognizing that you get wide-ranging appetites in the children department.

OUT & ABOUT

As mentioned,  you are in the heart of the Kent countryside here so you are in a  great position to take a walk around the surrounding areas and burn off some of that lunch. The pretty village of Tenterden, is six miles away, which is full of independent boutiques and cafes, if you looking for an afternoon ‘activity’ with a girlfriend pre or post lunch. Shopping burns calories too, right?

And if you are on a day trip with the younger lot, then you could combine lunch at Pig & Sty with a trip to the nearby Rare Breeds Centre where you can expect to find Bird of Prey experiences, butterfly tunnels, trailer rides, play parks, creepy crawly world and much much more  to keep them happy and occupied.

ANYTHING ELSE?

They have also just started serving breakfast on the weekends which is a great shout for this side of Kent as we lack lots of good brunch spots in the area and the menu covers all bases. Anything from the obvious choices such as the The Great British Breakfast to the Happy Pig breakfast (two free range fried eggs, smashed avocado, grilled plum tomato, flat mushroom, heinz baked beans, toast) and the Egg Benedict/Florentine and Royale family. Plus, American pancakes, red berries, maple syrup and crispy bacon for those who want breakfast the American way or the Superfood option if you are much healthier than I am. You can fill your boots on quinoa, oats, chia seeds, coconut milk, honey, red berries and cashew nuts, or Dorset cereals, granola, greek yoghurt, hazelnut, goji berries, red berries and agave syrup. And you can choose to wash these down with some pretty interesting sounding smoothies. Broccoli & the Beast anyone? Broccoli, mango, banana, pineapple, spinach and cucumber but they also have tasty alternatives such as their Pash ‘n’ Shoot and Berry Go Round so happy and healthy all round.

They also do takeaway pizza (pick up only) and let’s just say that the thought did cross my mind to order food for dinner that evening and take it home with me for the laziest but craftiest parenting tactic ever.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Pig & Sty ticks so many boxes. Fantastic spot for family time – small or large groups – and a great place to head for breakfast/brunch at the weekends or have lunch or dinner with your girlfriends.

Not for: A romantic, intimate evening as this is a large space with a buzzy atmosphere unless you hired the private room all to yourselves? Oooo-errr

The damage: Starters range from £6 to £11 with mains starting around the £12 mark and going up to £20 – depending on how fancy you want to take your meal. Pizzas cost from £10 to £15 and Roast dinners (on Sundays) go up to £18. It does err on the pricier side but for the potential enjoyment factor for all age groups and tastes, I would say that it is worth it.

The Pig & Sty, Ashford, Bethersden, TN26 3LF, hello@thepigandsty.com

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