Just when you worry that the litter might be becoming a touch predictable, along comes another little piggy to dispel all such fears.
The latest Pig creation — which opened last week in the pretty Kent village of Bridge, near Canterbury — is a triumph.
Every last detail has been exercised with such precision that it’s impossible not to conclude that the Pig chain has completely reinvented the country house hotel experience.
Triumph: The exterior of the ‘ravishing’ 17th-century Grade II manor house
It helps, of course, that at its heart is a ravishing 17th-century Grade II* manor house — Bridge Place — with a long history of hedonistic pleasures, not least in the Sixties when it became a rock ’n’ roll hangout, playing host to Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, The Moody Blues, Manfred Mann, The Yardbirds.
There are seven rooms in the main house, 12 in a new wing that you would never know is new and seven Hop Pickers Huts built along a boardwalk near the Nailbourne river.
We arrive about 7pm to a chorus of birdsong, the evening sun picking out the red brick of the house and fingering its way through oak and beech trees that line the drive.
We should have got here far earlier. At one end of the huge and immaculate kitchen garden is a kiosk fashioned from reclaimed wood, including old doors with their knockers and letter boxes still in place. It features a pizza oven and drinks are served here throughout the day — and I imagine throughout the night if the weather allows.
The staff are disarmingly natural. No platitudes. And most of them seem to be bright young things.
One of them shows us to our Hop Pickers Hut, built entirely of wood apart from a tin roof. There’s a wood burner — and you’re encouraged to use it.
Everything is so simple: a butler’s sink for a basin, nothing on the walls, roll-top bath in the corner, shower tucked behind the bed, Bakelite telephone and light switches. You feel you’re camping in a forest, but in considerable style.
I get the fire going (logs are laid out outside the door) and then we repair to the main building, which is the very definition of higgledy piggledy, with little dens here and there and a gorgeous bar. Across some of the windows are shelves of antique glass that glint in the fading light.
Pictured is one of the ‘Comfy’ rooms at The Pig in Kent featuring an original four poster bed
We order some ‘piggy bits’ to go with drinks, including crackling and apple sauce that you’re always told is so bad for you, but it makes us feel so good. Perhaps that’s the secret. Everything is seductive. Everything shouts: ‘Live a little’.
Downstairs in the buzzy, open kitchen, restaurant we do live a little and eat a lot. There’s a strict 25-mile rule for suppliers and anything smoked — such as my salmon — is done on site. The veg has travelled little more than 25 yards from the garden and many of the wines come from Kent.
Our fire is still burning when we get back to our hut. More important, the fire clearly is still burning in the heart of The Pig’s impresario, Robin Hutson.
One day he and his wife Judy, who is responsible for the interiors, may be tempted to sell up (just as Hutson did with the Hotel du Vin chain). Let’s hope that day is a long way off.
The Pig at Bridge Place, Bourne Park Road, Bridge, Kent CT4 5LF. Doubles from £145 (room only). For more information call 01227 830208 or visit thepighotel.com.