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City Escape | Kent

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When The Pig opened its doors in Kent eight years ago, it was one of the first to champion the plot-to-plate dining concept that has now swept Europe. Lovingly coined ‘a restaurant with rooms’, the charming Mr and Mrs Smith destination is exemplary of the travel group's penchant for unpretentious luxury. It uses home-grown food produce and sources as many additional ingredients as possible from within a 25-mile radius. 

Head chef Kamil Oseka is the mastermind behind the food. Having launched both the Kent restaurant and The Pig at Bath, he brings his expertise to Bridge Place in Kent to craft an ever-changing menu that’s bespoke to its location. 

“Fruit is particularly good here,” says Oseka. “It’s the hottest place in England so it grows early in the year.” Fish, cheese, vegetables, wine and champagne are also easy to find.

A lot of his ingredients are grown on The Pig’s own grounds and everything from tomatoes to banana-mint can be found in the vegetable garden, which is lovingly tended to by the same full-time gardener who Oseka has worked with for the past five years. 

“Seeing the passion and work that goes into looking after the land and the crops means as a chef, you want to make the most of everything,” he says. “Minimal food gets thrown away. Sometimes I’ll go onto the terrace during dinner and call down to ask for a top up of whatever I’m running low on. I ask vegetarian and vegan customers to choose their own ingredients from the garden and I design three dishes using what they’ve picked. They only get two minutes to forage though.” 

It’s a relatively small plot for such a popular dining spot so it’s important for Oseka to have trustworthy local suppliers on hand to keep things running smoothly. Sourcing the right people to work with is a meticulous process that starts well in advance of the restaurant opening date. 

“Many local suppliers are so small that they don’t have websites but the community is strong and businesses recommend one another more so here than anywhere else I’ve worked,” he says. “It’s hugely reliant on word of mouth and reputation.”

“Sometimes we work with farmers because we know they can add to what we already grow but we also support smaller establishments who provide a single type of meat or two trays of veg a week. It means we have to design new dishes all the time but I love that. It’s important to keep an open mind and it makes the menu more exciting.” 

The Pig also works on a trade basis with certain businesses, swapping sawdust for salmon from local fishermen and strawberries from a farmer just a few miles down the road. Traditions like this add to its old-English charm. 

With an on-site smokehouse, it serves up tempting stone-baked flatbreads and allows the kitchen team to add a bespoke touch. Jars of rocksalt found scattered on restaurant tables - a small but memorable detail, it’s the perfect accompaniment to house-baked sourdough and olive oil which, unsurprisingly, comes from a mile down the road and is infused with home-grown herbs. 

“When flavours are good you don’t need a lot of ingredients. Most of the dishes we create are made up of just three elements,” he says. “Simplicity is best. One of our vegetable plates is just carrots but the way they’re cooked and prepared makes them special. They have to be amazing carrots.” 

And they are amazing carrots. Flavours are rich but natural and never overcomplicated. For Oseka preparation is key and despite updating dishes almost daily, he works with the farmers a year in advance so he’s as prepared as he can be for the following season. 

“Spring and autumn are my favourite times to forage,” he says. “And I love working on Sundays whatever time of year it is. I love a roast dinner.” 

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The passion for his work is something that’s reflected in every member of staff throughout the property and each is well-versed on everything from the lengthy local gin and wine list to the luxury spa treatment menu. Interiors continue the British sensibility and bedrooms house beautiful mis-matched but expertly-chosen furniture, rustic exposed wooden details and the kind of bathrooms that Pinterest dreams are made of. In essence, it feels like you’re a guest in a close friend’s beautiful country home – one where you’ll never out-stay your welcome and will always leave feeling wonderfully well fed. 

Credits
Words by Sarah Leigh Bannerman
Photography courtesy of Mr and Mrs Smith