After a blowout dinner at The Pig, two drunken guests whispered to us in the courtyard that their meal had been disappointing, their room small and that, horror of horrors, they'd left their window open and found a moth in their bedroom.
I felt sorry for them. All hotels have off days but this wasn't one of them at the newly opened Pig. If the guests in question couldn't enjoy a place so imbued with relaxation (and the kind of underlying efficiency that generates it), then life must be quite a struggle. Because it really doesn't get better than this.
The Pig is planned to be the first of a new brand of mid-market country hotels, offering comfortable, characterful rooms and unpretentious food to those who don't have the budget to stay at a luxury hotel. If the recipe sounds familiar, no wonder. The hotel is the latest project from Robin Hutson, a former director of the Soho House group, now chairman and chief executive of Lime Wood Group – best known for the Lime Wood Hotel, a flagrantly 21st-century country-house hotel just down the road from The Pig – and previously co-founder of the Hotel du Vin chain.
"It's all fairly basic, but all great quality" is the motto of the hotel's excellent manager, Lora Strizic. It's also underlain by an elegant period setting and by successful interior design work on the part of Hutson's wife, Judy. The usual shabby chic suspects are here – reclaimed oak flooring, book print wallpaper in the "library" – but there are some quirkier additions, too. These include herb-filled terracotta plant pots dotted throughout the hotel on mismatched plates, a dining room laid with vintage cutlery, and a colourfully tiled floor that Judy happily admits she "stole" from the Ilse Crawford-designed brasserie at High Road House in Chiswick.
The hotel will eventually have 26 rooms; 16 are already open in the main building and 10 more will open in the former stable yard at the end of September. Sticking to Lora's motto, the basics, including beds and showers, have been put together with care. Our "snug" room was surprisingly spacious, with a monsoon shower. Some of the bigger rooms stretch to four-poster beds and free-standing baths. All come with "larders" stocked with an eclectic range of nibbles.
The food and drink
When Hutson bought what was formerly the jaded Whitley Ridge hotel, its one redeeming feature was its walled garden. He decided to make that the hotel's focal point. Now 95 per cent of what they serve in The Pig's restaurant is either grown in the garden or comes from within a 15-mile radius. Leaf through chef James Golding's menu and you'll find that almost every dish has a bit of garden in it, from a courgette salad (£6.50) to poached Test Valley trout served with mussels and fennel potatoes (£17). The wine list, though mainly French, includes Ridgeview English fizz (£8 per glass). And don't miss a pre-dinner cocktail. Order La Petite Cochonerie, laced with bourbon, white strawberry and ginger mint from the garden, and it will be served in a pretty, junk shop-found vintage glass.
Wi-Fi is free. Though the toiletries are by the unexciting Gilchrist & Soames brand, they are from the Sprout Out range, a paraben- and sulphate-free line that fits well with the hotel's green-fingered philosophy. For more pampering there's the Potting Shed, a treatment room where you can book a massage with one of Lime Wood's therapists. Or you can pay £25 for a day ticket to Lime Wood itself, 10 minutes away.
Children welcome and dogs will be once the stable rooms open. Several rooms are wheelchair accessible.
Doubles from £125 per night, family rooms (a double plus a bunk) from £210. Breakfast from £10.
The Pig, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire SO42 7QL (01590 622354; thepighotel.co.uk).