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Q&A with Mairead Gleeson, general manager of The Pig in the South Downs

Your name and some background about you

Mairead Gleeson, 38, general manager of The Pig in the South Downs hotel and restaurant. I’m a seasoned hospitality operator with over 20 years of experience in the industry, previously being responsible for restaurants, hotels and members clubs including Hotel du Vin and Soho House.

What is your venue called, where is it and when was it established?

The Pig in the South Downs, Madehurst near Arundel. Our hotel and restaurant opened earlier this year and is part of Home Grown Hotels which were established in 2011 by Robin Hutson.

What is the ethos of the business?

There is a very simple and honest ethos at The Pig in the South Downs, with our Kitchen Garden at the very heart of everything thing that we do. Homegrown local produce means our chefs can design seasonal menus and work closely with our kitchen gardeners throughout the year. Our kitchen garden ingredients also feature in our seasonal cocktails and drinks.

Tell us about the offering of the venue

Our restaurant with rooms is made up of the main house with a traditional greenhouse restaurant and rooms spread out between a higgledy-piggledy collection of traditional brick, flint and timber clad Sussex stable yard buildings.

The first floor of the main house brings a handful of the hotel’s bedrooms with various shower rooms, bathrooms, and the odd avocado freestanding bath. Three of these rooms overlook the garden, vineyard and views beyond.

Separate from the main building is the Courtyard and Stable Yard housing further rooms, some of which can be joined together for larger groups. The Chicken Shack is just one of the bedrooms in this outbuilding collection with its own chicken shed features remaining in place.

As ever, we can never resist a hut so a selection of Field and Garden Wagons bring further guest accommodation. They come complete with log burners, freestanding baths and monsoon showers and are in both the kitchen garden and the garden space overlooking rolling Sussex fields.

Our head chef Kamil and his team work hand-in-hand with the Kitchen Gardeners to create our 25 mile menu, made up of daily harvested garden produce and fresh ingredients from small West Sussex producers, farmers and fishermen, who supply anything that we cannot grow or produce in our two acre kitchen garden. We’ve also planted 4,500 vines on our chalky soils to create our own wine in the future.

In the fields around us we have a flock of sheep, a litter of piglets, quail and – of course – hens that provide us with our eggs for breakfast in the hotel.

How many on your team and who are they?

We have about 100 people in our team in various departments including Chefs, Kitchen and Grounds, Restaurant and Bar, Housekeeping, Reception and our lovely therapists.

Was opening during the pandemic a particular challenge?

Opening during the pandemic most definitely had it’s challenging moments from recruiting to deciding to wear masks or not.

Instead of recruiting skill we recruited personality: young and enthusiastic personality. For many of our team it was their first job in hospitality. I must say I now look at this bunch of young recruits and smile to think how far they have come.

What are your plans/hopes for the future?

To continue working in the hospitality industry. I am lucky enough to love what I do and will continue training and mentoring young recruits into hospitality professionals.

The Pig in the South Downs, Madehurst, Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 0NL,

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