Award-winning hotelier Robin Hutson intends to replicate the success of Hotel du Vin by opening a group of reasonably priced country house hotels with a strong emphasis on simple, local food and quirky interiors.
The Pig, which will open its doors at the end of July on the outskirts of Brockenhurst, Hampshire, will be the first property within a new company called Home Grown Hotels. Other hotels are expected to follow in rural locations close to major towns and cities in the South of England, such as Bristol and Chichester.
Converted at a cost of £3m from the Whatley Ridge Hotel, the 26-bedroom Pig aims to be the antithesis of the traditional country house hotel, with shabby chic décor and a restaurant highlighting foods grown in the extensive kitchen garden or sourced within a 15-mile radius.
"We hope the Pig will fill the gap that exists below the high-quality and expensive country house hotel at the top of the market and the current three-to four-star sector, which is pretty traditional and often lacklustre," said Hutson, who launched Hotel du Vin with Gerard Basset in 1994. Together they built up an enormously successful business of six hotels before selling it for £66m, 10 years later, to the MWB Group.
The ownership of the Pig has been transferred to Home Grown Hotels from the Lime Wood Group, the company owned by chemical multimillionaire Jim Ratcliffe, which launched the nearby Lime Wood country house hotel in 2009. Hutson is sharing the development cost of the new business with the marketing director David Elton, finance director Mike Rice and the banks.
The general manager will be Lora Strizic, former general manager of the Hotel du Vin Brighton, while the kitchen will be headed by James Golding, who has previously worked at Le Caprice, J Sheekey and Soho House in New York.
Golding will work closely with kitchen gardener Mike Kleyn and forager Garry Eveleigh to create a menu inspired by the fresh, seasonal dishes created by Skye Gyngell at Petersham Nurseries and Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in California.
Hutson, with his wife, Judy, is putting together the look of the hotel, which he says will be "un-designed, with oddments of furniture and lots of garden influences.
"We need to perfect the model of the first one, but we are already looking at other locations for the Pig. However, I expect it will take us 18 months before we are ready to open a second one."
Room rates at the Pig will start at £125 per night, with a three-course dinner, excluding wine, costing £35.
IT'S ALL IN THE NAME - THE PIG
Using the Spotted Pig restaurant in New York as inspiration, Robin Hutson said he hoped the name of the Pig would differentiate the business from traditionally named hotels. "If it sounds a bit like a pub, then all well and good as we want to be seen as affordable and approachable," he said. "The Pig also represents our home-grown food philosophy. And I like the fact that there is a bit of attitude about the name."
Robin Hutson… the man with the golden touch
The launch of the Pig will be one of the major new hotel openings of 2011. Although its size - just 28 bedrooms - pales into insignificance alongside the plethora of large-scale London openings this year, its importance is down to the involvement of Robin Hutson, who over nearly 20 years has proved himself to be very much on the button when it comes to hitting the market with the right hotel concept at the right time. With Hotel du Vin, he created a mid-market brand for market towns which had both style and the dual hook of fabulous food and wine at a reasonable price. He then went on to spearhead the opening of Lime Wood, a country house hotel offering laid-back luxury which has attracted both widespread publicity and numerous awards. With the Pig, Hutson intends to revitalise the dowdy three-star hotel market in the country, this time using the kitchen garden as the reason to appeal to an audience tuned into sustainable produce. Like Hotel du Vin, which has spawned many imitators in towns and cities all over the UK, the Pig is likely to create a rash of rural replicas.
By Janet Harmer
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