Launch review: The Pig, Harlyn Bay, Cornwall
On its opening day, Muddy's ed-in-chief Hero Brown was the first to eat lunch at the brand new Pig hotel in Harlyn Bay (what a trooper!). So what was the verdict - and is it worth a trip to North Cornwall?
Pretty as a seaside postcard. A stone’s throw (well, an amble across the fields) from the white sands of Harlyn Bay, the seventh incarnation of The Pig hotel group opened a few weeks back in North West Cornwall with typical eclectic style and aplomb. A grand grey stone country manor, dating back in parts to the 15th century, sits in around 12 acres that includes gardens, courtyards, four bespoke shepherd huts, kitchen gardens and a separate Lobster Shack that, on the first day of opening when I visited, had Adrian Edmondson and Jennifer Saunders as visitors.
I’m a massive fan of The Pig hotels. Owners Robin and Judy Hutson – regarded as hotel royalty, having already created and subsequently sold Hotel du Vin for a cool £66m in 2004 – know a thing or two about hospitality! The Pig hotels manage to combine luxury without pretension; there’s no fear of not ‘looking the part’ or lacking cool, an accusation sometimes levelled at the Soho House group. Every Pig is a bit different – helped of course by the fact that nearly all are in different counties (Cornwall, of course, plus Kent, Devon, Somerset, two in Hampshire and one to come in Sussex).
The Pig at Harlyn Bay makes much of its 16th century credentials with its dark, dramatic palette, sea paintings and huge portraits, flagstone floors, ecclesiastical windows and the sympathetically renovated interiors – heavy wooden doors, rough-hewn walls, and some seriously impressive cornicing in the main restaurant. Frankly, it’s beautiful, designed by Judy Hudson herself. I bumped into her when I was looking around the organic garden and she was the first to admit that she’s had no training (she used to be in occupational therapy!), and just goes where the building takes her.
The Pig’s schtick is its 25 mile provenance, with the occasional exception by necessity (smoked salmon for example). Excuse me while I preen, but I was actually the first person to officially eat lunch at The Pig at Harlyn Bay – go Muddy! – adjusting the elasticated pants in the kitchen restaurant at 12pm sharp.
The food was a pleasure from start to finish and just so pretty on the plate. I was on holiday with my family and the kids absolutely loved it too. (FYI The Pig is very child-friendly, don’t worry about bringing them along to eat). I started with Fennel risotto (£8) from the organic garden, and it was delicate and al dente and divine, though the least visually inviting of our starters – there’s something about the ‘spread’ of a risotto if not contained, isn’t there? So I’ll show you my daughter’s entrée instead, ‘zebra’ courgettes in preserved lemon cream cheese and lemon verbena, which was a total dream (£6).
For mains I went for the turbot on the bone with PKG Potatoes (from Padstow) and Hollandaise sauce (£32) and it was a dream. Really simple, no fuss in the ingredients, allowing the turbot to take centre stage.
Dessert was the prettiest dish of all, a ‘fruit cage’ tart with lemon thyme custard that was almost too perfect to attack. (I said almost).
Increasingly I like to order wines individually with courses rather than a bottle and the sommelier, Greg Turner-Deeks, ably helped.
Service on the first day was enthusiastic (they’d been waiting for months to launch, no-one could wipe the smiles off their faces) but also pared back and professional. My personal bugbear is too sharey or matey, but they nailed it.
We were cosily ensconced in St Agnes, a 45 minute up the coast so there was no need to stay but I did get shown around by the manager and I’m definitely coming back.
Aside from the 11 stylish bedrooms in the main manor house, there’s a separate, sympathetically designer new build, The Stonehouse offering another 15 rooms. Then there are the four shepherd huts (known as ‘garden wagons’) that have hit Covid gold – set well apart from one another, they offer contained luxury with wood-burning fire, roll top bath, kitchenette and even a private al fresco shower to wash away the beach and give the squirrels a fright.
Doubles start at £150 per night, but true median prices are around £250-£300 and you can expect to pay a premium to make like a shepherd – they cost up to £400 per night. There’s are treatment rooms at The Pig for overnight guests only, accessed from the kitchen garden. No gym or tennis courts or any other ‘leisure’ facilities, though of course they do have a stonkingly lovely beach which you could argue makes up for it.
OUT AND ABOUT
You’re a mere 10 minutes from Padstow (above) here – a big calling card for tourists, though locals will tell you it’s a total bunfight at this coastal foodie Steiny mecca. I’ll back that one up – I took the ferry over to Padstow from Rock (on a different day trip), looked at the crowds, grabbed an icecream and headed back on the ferry!
Harlyn Bay itself is a beautiful white crescent beach, and family friendly and next door is Constantine Bay, both excellent for surfing (you’ll find surf schools on both shores). If you give Padstow the swerve, make time for Rock and Polzeath, and hop on a bike to explore the 18 mile The Camel Estuary that takes you along a disused railway line between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow. You’re roughly 30 minutes drive to the Eden Project.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: There’s no reason not to love The Pig. It’s just a lovely experience, and no stone has been left unturned to create a special meal or stay.
Not for: Luxury doesn’t come cheap and The Pig’s prices, though competitive with other high-end stays in the area, are a bit chewy. Dog lovers might want to swerve this one – four-legged friends cannot stay over or enter the main building, though you can stroll the grounds with them or if you’re eating outside at the Lobster Shed.