Fresh from the success of reinventing the country house hotel, the people behind the New Forest's Lime Wood and The Pig in the Forest – the latter, one of last year's most talked-about new hotels – have struck gold again with this, their latest addition to the herd.
Occupying a Georgian townhouse set within Southampton's medieval city walls, The Pig in the Wall successfully marries the homely comforts of a B&B with the quality and standards of an upmarket hotel. Opened last month, it's new enough still to smell of paint but has already attracted a following. The harbour-front location makes it handy for anyone setting forth from the nearby cruise terminal, while those not heading for the high seas can grab a cuppa at an outside table and watch enormous container ships pass by on Southampton Water.
No two of the 12 guest rooms are alike, though they share their style scheme with The Pig in the Forest. There are eight "Comfy" rooms with double beds, three king-size "Spacious" rooms and a single, cosy "Attic Snug" with a double bed tucked into the eaves. Common touches include luxurious goose-down bedding, mini-bar "larders" stocked with snacks, Nespresso machines and playfully retro accessories such as old-school alarm clocks and dial telephones.
My room, No 7, certainly lives up to its Spacious name and comes with wooden floorboards, corkscrew four-poster bed and a stand-alone, roll-top bath to one side. There's also an en-suite containing a walk-in monsoon shower, but the somewhat awkward, restricted space means there's no door to shut it off from the bedroom. I'm promised that mine's the only room with this dubious design quirk, so book one of the others if you're a stickler for privacy.
Downstairs, a homey, comfortable lounge provides an inviting space in which to relax. Framed cross-stitch artworks and a large, crockery-filled display cabinet feel comfortingly reminiscent of Granny's, while the open fireplace, battered leather armchairs, artfully placed taxidermy and purposefully mismatched furniture give the whole place an air of delightfully shabby chic. Breakfast is served here, buffet-style, on a long, marble bar. There are home-made pastries, breads, jams and granola alongside locally sourced yoghurt, meats and cheese. An egg boiler remains on stand-by for do-it-yourself cooked eggs. Pile it high, then polish it off at tables dressed with terracotta pots of fresh herbs, or outside on the terrace if the weather allows.
The property is ably managed by the bright, sharp and thoroughly professional Rachael Brazier, who previously worked at both the original Pig and its much-lauded near neighbour, Lime Wood Hotel. "I see this as a city continuation of The Pig in the Forest," she says. "It's the same laid-back appeal, just a more urban setting."
Although Southampton may not be an obvious choice for a weekend away, it has its appeal. The city's best shopping is within a stone's throw of the front door, while culture vultures may prefer the Mayflower Theatre (023-8071 1811; mayflower.org.uk) for musicals, opera and ballet. There's history, too: the defensive stone walls into which The Pig is built date from the 13th century, while next door is the Tudor House (023 8083 4242; tudorhouseandgarden.com); at nearly 520 years old, this quirky museum is Southampton's most important historic building.
Best of all is the SeaCity Museum (023-8083 3007; seacitymuseum.co.uk), whose impressive Titanic exhibit opened in April – marking the centenary of the fateful ship's departure from Southampton's docks. The interactive exhibition brings Titanic's story to life by following the fate of six local crew members. Over three-quarters of the crew (including the captain) came from a Southampton address and more than 500 local households lost a family member.
The Pit Stop
In the evening, a silver 4x4 provides complimentary transfers to The Pig in the Forest, 20 minutes away. The restaurant takes the whole plot-to-plate thing very seriously, with most of the menu sourced within a 25-mile radius, including pheasant from the forest and seafood from the Solent. True to the name, pork dishes feature prominently, plus there are beets, berries, rhubarb and salad leaves from the walled garden. Three courses cost about £35pp, without wine.
The Pig in the Wall, 8 Westgate Street, Southampton SO14 2AY (08450 779494; thepighotel.co.uk). Double rooms from £115 per night; breakfast is £10pp extra.