Published: 00:01, 13 October 2019
| Updated: 09:58, 14 October 2019
A hotel that opened just six months ago has been named the best in the south east.
The hotel in Bridge is the sixth in the Pig group, which has "restaurants with rooms" across five counties.
Its varied premises centre around kitchen gardens, and pride themselves on using locally grown and sourced food.
Hotel director Guy Freedman said he was "overwhelmed and delighted" with the accolade.
"We are relatively new in town but have had nothing but support and kindness from the local community for what we have done with the building," he said.
"The award from the Sunday Times is also a credit to the team here who have bonded very quickly and strive to give the best service."
Mr Freedman revealed that such was the interest in The Pig hotel stay experience that some guests have booked rooms, despite only living in the surrounding villages.
The Pig opened at the end of April following the £8 million refurbishment of a 17th century manor house, the former Bridge Country Club.
In an article published in today's Sunday Times, reporter Susan D'Arcy writes: "The Pig group’s collection of shabby-chic hotels loves nothing more than rescuing a big old hulk of a country house from a sorry state of dereliction and masterminding a spectacular resurrection; and with this, its sixth, it has done a particularly splendid job.
"The building is every inch the bucolic bolthole: an elegant Grade II-listed Jacobean mansion with dainty proportions wrapped up in 10 acres of Turner-evoking water meadows, just a 10-minute drive from Canterbury (which has an inexplicable dearth of decent hotels).
"But what really sold the place to the group’s CEO, Robin Hutson, is its architectural quirkiness.
"Downstairs, there’s a rabbit warren of misshapen rooms with bashed brick and beams, cosy fires, hangover-friendly lighting and an ambience reminiscent of a naughty private members’ club."
She praises the staff, who "ensure that dinner sizzles like the salt-aged sirloin steak and triple-cooked chips", as well as the "simple, gutsy" dishes served up at the restaurant, which incorporate a wealth of local ingredients.
The Pig group's fabulously-styled hotels in converted historic buildings are renowned for their trademark cosy furnishings and fittings, decor and "homegrown" food.
But the project in Bridge has been the most personal for hotelier Robin Hutson and his interior designer wife Judy, whose parents lived in the village and were married at the church just a few hundred yards from the hotel.
"It really has been a labour of love for us and we have put our heart and soul into it," said Mr Hutson, at the hotel's launch in April.
"It just a great feeling to see it all finished and the building given a new lease of life."
Mr Hutson said he was also excited by the focus on food in Kent adding: "We have not found a location with such an abundance of small suppliers who we are looking forward to working with, including the county's wine growers."
The hotel has 31 bedrooms split across the main house, coach house, two family lodges and a rustic romantic two-storey hideaway in the old stables.
There are also seven Kentish hop pickers’ huts on stilts, which sit alongside the river in the grounds and feature double-bedrooms with fitted bathrooms and wood burning stoves.
Sitting in several acres of countryside, Bridge Country Club was owned for more than 50 years by Peter Malkin and in its hey-dey in the 70s attracted big-name bands including Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, The Yardbirds and the Moody Blues.
The manor house was bought by Mr Hutson's Limewood Group, whose team set about the transformation with the signature decor by wife Judy.
But careful attention was paid to retaining and incorporating the building's many historic features including its magnificent staircase, fireplaces and wood panelling.
Billed as a special dining experience with luxury rooms, Pig hotels are renowned for their food, with produce harvested from their own vegetable, fruit and herb cottage gardens and even their own sheep and pigs as well as local suppliers.
The hotel also features a signature trait of Pig hotels - a conservatory restaurant with an open-plan kitchen.
A spokesman for The Pig said: "We're delighted to have won this award.
"The team has worked so hard since it opened and it's a real dream to have been recognised.
"Everybody's overwhelmed, and after all this hard work to get it up and running it's incredible to be chosen."
Double rooms at The Pig start from £99, while main courses begin at £14.
The full guide is available in this weekend's Sunday Times, or via The Sunday Times' website.