An overnight stay and meal at this new restaurant with rooms left us feeling as happy as pigs in muck.
With so many restaurant openings following decor trends, it’s refreshing to find a new venture that’s gone out on a limb and crafted its own colourful personality to set it apart from its contemporaries.
Housed in the former Hope Inn in Sedgefield, County Durham, The Impeccable Pig has really brought the bacon home in its theme, with pictures of top hat-wearing pigs adorning the walls, ceramic pigs on a fireplace which is half way up the wall, pigs in blankets on the menu all year round and its ten boutique rooms given names such as The Whole Hog, Globe Trotter and Pigs Might Fly.
We stayed in the Cochon D’or which was far from a pig sty. Au contraire, it was probably the prettiest room in which I’ve ever stayed. Its French moniker is in keeping with a Parisian flair which also flows through the pub and restaurant, with Art Nouveau poster art on the walls and a selection of French beers and ciders rubbing shoulders with more than 170 wines on the drinks list.
Each of the rooms, the ground floor versions of which come with their own private hot tubs, have their own theme and ours was a boudoir paradise with a canopy of faux flowers on the ceiling, cherubs dangling from light fittings, Louis XIV furniture and a huge copper bath fit for two.
It could have been a bit nouveau riche, but it’s tastefully done with a real eye for detail and makes this a destination venue, just off the A1, worth writing home about.
For those dining at the venue you can make a pig of yourself at the pub and restaurant, the refit of which has worked sympathetically with the period features of the Grade II-listed building.
Bistro-style food, such as sharing boards, Josper grill dishes, pizzas and classics such as slow roast belly pork, as well as a piglets menu for kids, are served in a fancy, yet informal setting which again has an air of French elegance.
At the helm of the kitchen is Chris Finnigan, who served his apprenticeship at the famous Le Manoir under culinary legend Raymond Blanc and worked in several other Michelin-starred restaurants.
We chose the sharing board of cured meats (£20 between two) to start and were served a huge wooden board which almost buckled under the weight of a selection of sliver upon sliver of cured meats, chorizo, Nocerella green olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, pickles, fior de latte mozzarella and focaccia garlic bread, which was perfect for tearing and dunking in a smooth liver pâté.
It was good value for money with plenty to go around between the two of us. It was sheer piggery, therefore, to order the pigs in blankets (£4.50) as a side but when in Rome...
The Impeccable Pig is from the same stable as Ramside Hall and Hardwick Hall, whose Rib Room restaurants are renowned for their quality steaks. And this little sister site follows suit using cuts from County Durham-reared cattle.
My medium rare fillet steak main (£29 for 8oz or £24 for 6oz) was beautifully tender and buttery pink and came served with French fries, beans, shallot and watercress salad and a sauce of my choice, a punchy peppercorn, which is included in the price.
We were also impressed with the huge drinks list with a comprehensive choice of premium lagers, beers and ciders on draught, starting from £4 a pint, as well as a good choice of alcohol-free, wheat-free and gluten-free options.
Wine-wise, there’s also a huge choice in which you can take your tastebuds on a trot around the globe, from the vineyards of France to California. Prices start from £4.50 for a glass or £18.50 for a bottle. There were some unusual additions on there but the staff were knowledgeable at helping us navigate the list and giving us taster tipples to wet our whistle.
En route to the pub area and toilets (which are a photo opportunity in themselves) you can even peer into the wine cellar through a glass floor panel, another delightfully curious feature at this impeccably good addition to the North East dining scene.
Five other quirky North East places to try
•Black Knight, Lumley Castle, Chester-le-Street, County Durham
Dine like a lord or lady in this regal dining room that’s quite unlike any other in the region. The hearty a la carte menu features options such as pan-roasted wood pigeon breast and roasted breast of duck.
•Tin of Sardines, Elvet Bridge, Durham City
Possibly the world’s smallest gin bar, Tin of Sardines holds just 16 people. Despite its small size, it houses an impressive selection of hundreds of gins, both local and exotic.
•Riley’s Fish Shack, King Edward’s Bay, Tynemouth
This little coastal gem has been reeling in diners and critics from far and wide. So much so, they’ve been nominated in the World Restaurant Awards which take place on Monday.
•Mexico 70, High Street West, Sunderland
Expect top class tacos and excellent margaritas at this Day Of The Dead-themed bar and restaurant. Dining is casual so no bookings are taken. Make sure to try the bacon guacamole!
•The Waiting Room, Durham Station
The Waiting Room pub is on platform two of Durham City’s grade II-listed station in the former ladies first-class waiting room. Expect a good choice of beer while you wait for your train.