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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Balmer Lawn Hotel

Beresford’s at Balmer Lawn for a touch of Thai

Careys Manor Hotel

Ivy Roost Cottage

The Montagu Arms

Hotel TerraVina for Bed and Breakfast

Hotel TerraVina Dining

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Travel Reviews
- The New Forest

On this page:

Balmer Lawn Hotel

Beresford’s at Balmer Lawn for a touch of Thai

Careys Manor Hotel

Ivy Roost Cottage

The Montagu Arms

Hotel TerraVina for Bed and Breakfast

Hotel TerraVina Dining

Balmer Lawn – New Forest Stay

Balmer Lawn – New Forest Stay

Following the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror designated this wooded corner of southern England as a royal forest for the pleasure of the king and his court. The area was cleared for regal entertainment at the expense of more than 20 small hamlets and farms; hence it was considered a ‘new’ forest, although it was even then an ancient landscape. The New Forest was first recorded as Nova Foresta in the Domesday Book in 1086. It is the only forest described in that all-encompassing tome in such detail, so it was evidently unique.  These days you don’t have to be royal to enjoy this marvellous open space. There are ponies and cattle roaming free and the villages with their thatched cottages are chocolate-box picturesque.

Balmer Lawn – New Forest Stay Balmer Lawn Hotel was first built as a private house and hunting lodge around 1800, although I suspect it would have been smaller at that time. It was rebuilt and fashioned into something more like what you see today in around 1850. There have been further improvements in recent times following a fire in 1970. It’s a large building set behind an open field, or lawn, where still can be seen cricket matches in good summer weather, to the delight of tourists, no doubt.

Plenty of history here. During World War One the hotel was used as a field hospital. Several years ago refurbishment works uncovered spent ammunition, empty cigarette packets, and a priceless collection of WWII documents under the floor of bedroom 10. One can see the documents, now framed, in a hallway at Balmer Lawn and one can imagine the conversations in the bar in those dark days. But Balmer Lawn is contemporary, renovated and full of amenities that are very much of these less fraught days.

Balmer Lawn – New Forest Stay It’s imposing from the outside, for sure, although once inside, Balmer Lawn seems to have something of a reverse Tardis effect: its scale becomes somewhat more cosy and accessible. The reception sports an original clerk’s desk complete with inkwells, which possibly harks to Victorian times. The adjoining seating areas are homely and welcoming and there are several more private spaces for quieter moments or for groups. These seating areas are also used at breakfast time and for light lunches. The bar leads off to outside tables which are popular in the summer for a glass of Pimms and a snack.

Perhaps that is the strength of Balmer Lawn – it has appeal for everyone. There are those who are looking for a few days of quiet tranquillity. They crave a nice country walk starting from the front door, a corner with comfy armchair and good book, a cup of tea at one’s elbow and a great dinner at the end of the day. It’s all here.

That might not be an appealing vacation for everyone. Sometimes one looks for a hotel with first-class sporting facilities, as well as being well-placed to take advantage of local activities such as fishing, riding, shooting and watersports. Balmer Lawn has two pools, a spa, squash court and an all-weather tennis court. There is a well-appointed gym with equipment which will be familiar to those with temple-like bodies: Steppers, Treadmills, Rowers, Exercise Bikes, Cross Trainer (I have no idea), Multi-gym and Free weights. Balmer Lawn has a partnership with Brockenhurst Manor Golf Club; the course is situated just 5 minutes’ drive from the hotel and is considered a premier golf course in the heart of the New Forest.

balmer lawn Balmer Lawn has 54 rooms on 3 floors but there are lifts. Those rooms range from traditional country house to modern and contemporary. They are individually designed and decorated, and some have balconies with views across the cricket lawn. Choose a room that suits your style and you can even bring the dog! The staff here are friendly and helpful so requests from 2- or 4-legged guests are never too much trouble.

Balmer Lawn is recognised, unsurprisingly, as one of the best hotels in the New Forest region. Its restaurant, Beresford’s, has become a gastronomic destination for locals and visitors. It has leisure facilities that make this an all-year-round resort. But it also offers calm and a hint of luxury with flexible space for the interests of the whole family.

Balmer Lawn – New Forest Stay Balmer Lawn Hotel
Lyndhurst Road
New Forest
SO42 7ZB

Phone: +44 (0)1590 421 107

Fax: +44 (0)1590 623864


Visit Balmer Lawn here.

food and travel reviews

Beresford’s at Balmer Lawn for a touch of Thai

The New Forest has ponies aplenty but it also has fine hotels and restaurants. The Balmer Lawn is the first and has the second. It’s an outstanding hotel with a restaurant which is also noteworthy.

Beresford’s has an AA rosette but it is deserving of more. Executive Chef Chris Wheeldon and his talented team produce daily menus using fresh local produce wherever possible. The bill of fare offers flair and imagination and it’s delivered with style.

Don’t miss a visit to Beresford’s, and Lobster Lemongrass Lime Leaf Risotto is a must-try. It has all the aromatic flavours of traditional Thai curries but without the heat. There is nothing to overpower the delicate taste of the seafood.

If you can’t get to Beresford’s for a while then here is the recipe.

Lobster Lemongrass Lime Leaf Risotto

Balmer Lawn lobster Serves: 4


1 native lobster
200 grams mussels
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 glass white wine
3 lime leaves
1 litre kombu dashi stock (available from Asian supermarkets)
2 lemongrass sticks, bruised
1 tin coconut milk
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
300 grams carnaroli or arborio rice
A few leaves of coriander and lemon balm for garnish


Cook lobster for 8 minutes in boiling salted water then cool and crack the shells, and carefully remove the flesh.

Check that all mussels are closed. Cook mussels in a tablespoon of butter and the white wine, pick mussels over, discard any that don’t open. Keep any liquor and add to your dashi - make sure it is strained to remove any silt.

Cut lime leaves as small as possible and add to your dashi with the lemongrass, and warm through; infuse for 1 hour then add the coconut milk.

Sweat off the shallots and crushed garlic in 1 tablespoon of butter.

Add the rice and cook for a few minutes.

Add the dashi and coconut milk a little at a time stirring constantly. The rice should be cooked in about twenty minutes; it should be cooked all the way through and soft in texture.

Finish with the remaining butter.

Warm the mussels and lobster under the grill for a few moments.

To serve, arrange risotto on the plate, set the mussels and lobster on top, garnish with some coriander and lemon balm.

Open a printable recipe page here.

food and travel reviews

Hotel TerraVina for Bed and Breakfast

TerraVina We are blessed with many fine hotels in the UK. All the 5* chains are well represented in all major cities. But we also have a wealth of boutique and Country House hotels and each is unique and characterful. The New Forest is beautiful and mostly unspoilt and it also has hotels which reflect the area’s style and culture. Hotel TerraVina is one such hotel.

Hotel TerraVina has a reputation for quality and is recognised as one of the best hotels in the area – and in this case it’s well-deserved. It’s impressive in an accessible fashion. It’s whimsical rather than intimidating. One seems to enter a private home – but a home owned by folks with impeccably good taste and a flair for cosy.

Owners Gerard Basset and his wife Nina purchased the hotel, conveniently close to Southampton, in early 2007. They spent months renovating, using the evident high skills of local craftspeople. This hotel is reminiscent of the best of similar accommodations in California or even Oregon wine country. There are wine connections aplenty and you will learn more in an article to follow shortly.

TerraVina There are lots of public spaces but all are intimate and well proportioned. The restaurant is renowned, and leads off to a covered terrace ideal for afternoon tea during the summer. The gardens are fringed with mature trees, and a swimming pool in the corner tempts the travel-weary tourist, and children who aren’t weary at all.

There are charming design details here and perhaps that’s no surprise, as Nina has had a career in hotel hospitality. She knows what works. TerraVina Dogs lounge on every bed but won’t need walkies as they are stuffed and act as Don’t Disturb notices for the staff or as door stops. The rooms are individually designed and all are well-appointed. Bathrooms are luxurious with tubs complete with rubber duck. The toiletries are local and hand-made from organically-grown lavender, and are eminently stealable, although there might not be much left after a brace of long and lingering hot baths x 2. Our room had the advantage of a totally private roof terrace with a view over treetops. Nothing skimpy here, just acres of space complete with loungers and associated outdoor furniture.

TerraVina Yes, there are all the usual entertainment and technology features but it’s the calming ambiance which will assure a return visit to this country haven. So may hotels mention the quality of their beds and I have never noticed any difference between those and my own, purchased from a favourite Scandinavian home-goods store. But Hotel TerraVina presented a bed in which to sink, in which to wallow, in which to snuggle. Yes, that’s it! This hotel is a classy snuggle and the hospitality equivalent of soothing music, good book and soft sofa.

Food is a huge element, or should be, of any break away, and breakfast is not only an important but an eagerly anticipated meal. Once again the owners have a finger on the pulse of their guests. The menu is classic but the brekkie aficionado will note the inclusion of soft-boiled eggs and soldiers! That touch alone should convey the sensitivity and wisdom of both Nina and Gerard Basset. A simple gesture, but summing up the hotel in general. This is a fun display of polished yet natural cachet with delicious flourishes, and I am already planning the next trip.

Hotel TerraVina
174 Woodlands Road
Netley Marsh
New Forest
SO40 7GL

Phone: +44 (0)2380 293 784

Fax: +44 (0)23 80 293 627


Visit Hotel TerraVina here

food and travel reviews

Hotel TerraVina Dining

Hotel TerraVina Dining Hotel TerraVina is a gem. It’s a well-appointed house – well, it seems like someone’s home (read the accommodation review here). A line of colourful wellies in the hall welcomes the arriving guests. The rooms are individually designed and the beds are the best I have ever slept on! One might not want to leave one’s private idyll but that would be a shame, as dinner awaits, and a very fine one, too.

Owners Gerard Basset and his wife Nina purchased the hotel, conveniently close to Southampton, in early 2007. This is recognised far and wide as a Wine Connoisseurs’ Hotel in the New Forest, and there are plenty of associations with wine here – starting with Gerard himself.

Gerard Basset OBE is one of the world’s most respected sommeliers (‘World’s Best Sommelier 2010’) so it’s natural that he would want fine vintages at the forefront of Hotel TerraVina’s attractions, of which there are many. There are wine events at the hotel including tutored wine tastings and wine dinners to draw the enthusiast. Exclusive wine gift boxes, signed by Gerard, are a very classy gift and they are available from the hotel. There are bespoke wine glasses for the budding sommelier and they are truly unique and designed by Gerard himself.

Hotel TerraVina Dining Food is a huge element of any break away and the restaurant mirrors the standard of the wine list. The bar leads onto the dining area with views over the well-established garden. Banquettes as well as tables for couples are spaced for either conviviality or privacy. It isn’t a huge restaurant and it’s all the better for that. It has intimate charm and contemporary grace with a hint of ‘across the Pond’.

It was their love of California wine country and its restaurants that inspired Nina to design a place that captured the ambiance of those stylish corners. They use fresh, free-range and organic produce from local New Forest suppliers wherever possible, so the menu changes with the seasons. This is a ‘destination’ rather than a culinary pit-stop and that changing bill of fare will encourage regulars.

Hotel TerraVina Dining We enjoyed starters of Salt-cured Hake with Anchovy beignets and, keeping with the piscatorial theme, Tartare of Salmon with egg yolk, crème fraiche and capers. Both dishes were light and perfect for that warm evening. Great flair here.

Calves Liver with fondant potatoes, pickled cabbage, shallots and beetroot was my guest’s choice of main course. The poor guy doesn’t get liver at home so he enjoys this flavourful meat whenever it’s on a restaurant menu. He pronounced this to be tender, rich and there was plenty of it – all well up to his raised epicurean expectations.

Roasted Lamb with sweetbreads, onion soubise (a classic onion sauce) and spring veg was my main course. The lamb was perfectly cooked and presented with those nuggets of sweetbreads – a cut of the animal which is, so sadly, often overlooked. They are mild and melting, and complemented the lamb very well. Do try these when you find them on menus. Good to see a bit of nose-to-tail eating here, although plenty of options for those who are not so keen to try. The restaurant isn’t after making any moral statement but it does make full use of local produce and introduces diners to dishes they might not have had the chance to try before.

Hotel TerraVina Dining Raspberry and mint parfait was our dessert. This was a beautiful plate of pink sweetness with a counterpoint of minty freshness. Congratulations to the pastry chef on his/her seasonal showcase. It reflected the evident ethos of Hotel TerraVina – quality in every regard. The wine list is outstanding, the food is a triumph and the beds should be No.1 in The Good Mattress Guide (I am joking, dear reader, that book won’t hit bookshops till I write it!). This hotel will tick every box for any discerning guest and there can be no finer accolade than that.

Hotel TerraVina

174 Woodlands Road
Netley Marsh
New Forest
SO40 7GL

Phone: +44 (0)2380 293 784

Fax: +44 (0)23 80 293 627

Visit Hotel TerraVina here.

food and travel reviews

Ivy Roost Cottage

hotel review My first taste of self-catering was as a 7-year-old and it did rather taint my expectations of that style of holiday for the following half-century. It was a ‘chalet’ (3-metre square prefab) in Sackets Grove. It had a wealth of ornithological interest, being situated next to Clacton’s municipal dump which was the feeding ground for seagulls.

Ivy Roost Cottage is a world away from that first experience. This idyllic place has modern luxury writ large. It is thoroughly contemporary but retains its 400-year-old charm. It sleeps up to 9 people which make this an ideal retreat for a large family group, or for several couples who want to enjoy all the tranquillity of the New Forest.

The New Forest is an expansive and ancient area of woods, heath and pasture in the south of England and isn’t ‘new’ at all. It was a royal hunting estate and was created in 1079 by William the Conqueror, who won the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It was first recorded as "Nova Foresta" in the Domesday Book in 1086.

Those historic acres begin just beyond the garden wall. A cattle grid keeps the famous roaming ponies and cattle away from the roses, and the views of unspoilt heath are memorable. There is truly nothing between you and the wildlife, and the rejuvenating country walks start at the front door.

hotel review Ivy Roost is a large thatched cottage dating back some 400 years. It has secluded gardens that are immaculate with lawns, borders and fruit trees. There are paved terraces for sitting and taking traditional afternoon tea, corners for enjoying some sun in the company of that best-seller, and a delightful al fresco dining room shaded by a leafy pergola. A swing will be fought over but the losers of that confrontation can cheer themselves with a soak in the hot tub. That’s a worthy consolation prize!

This cottage has been extended and restored to the highest of standards. It takes advantage of all its original features and they add so much to its character. There are beams, doors and alcoves that have remained part of its fabric throughout the centuries but there is nothing gloomy and dusty here. The walls are an oyster-white and the woodwork is in various shades of pale heritage neutral colours. Yes, contemporary finishes but they work so well with the rustic walls and windows in the older parts of the cottage.

hotel review One might worry that all those guests would feel a little confined in a cottage. There are no such concerns here. It has a wealth of rooms to suit every purpose, even on those days when the weather does not cooperate. The younger members of the group will gravitate to the first floor: the upstairs living room is light and bright with doors onto a striking furnished roof terrace with the best views in the house. That terrace will allow you a closer look at the iconic thatch. The kids might not be so interested in the scenery when they realise that there is a play station indoors, with a library of games.

There is a study on the ground floor for those who can’t afford full work disconnection. The cottage has wireless internet access so you will be able to keep a finger on the business pulse, although the view of the garden from the desk will tempt you away from emails.

Next to the study is an intimate sitting room that will be the magnet for adults on chilly evenings. Ivy Roost is a cottage for all seasons. It has an inglenook fireplace and a box of logs. There is nothing like the flicker of a real fire to create a calming ambiance and sense of wellbeing, but there is fully functioning state-of-the-art central heating in this and all other rooms. This ‘snug’ provides your after-dinner late-night-film-watching sanctuary although it’s likely you will be dozing before the end credits roll. There is a surround-sound system for the TV, DVD/CD, iPod dock and radio tuner.

hotel review You will have cooked the aforementioned dinner in one of the best-equipped and most thoughtfully designed kitchens. I am a food writer as well as a travel writer and I was taking notes: high-end appliances, practical features and plenty of space. The two ovens, a microwave, a 5-ring hob, dishwasher and full-height fridge make this a kitchen to give joy to even seasoned food professionals.

The dining table seats a dozen and is at the heart of what makes this cottage work. It has triple-aspect windows looking over the garden, and a high beamed ceiling. This is a true entertaining dining room providing a venue for your most memorable celebrations.

So you have had some lovely walks and enjoyed all that the local villages have to offer. You have tucked into a sumptuous cottage-cooked dinner and it’s time to retire. All of you will have well-appointed bedrooms; there are four of them and each one is different but all are stylish and comfortable.

The master bedroom has views over the New Forest, a dressing area and en-suite shower room. There are two further double rooms with their own shower room on the first floor, as well as a three-bed room and full bathroom on the ground floor. Everything has been carefully chosen to create rooms that are attractive and restful.

hotel review Ivy Roost Cottage sets the benchmark for self-catering accommodation. It has quality of furnishings and attention to detail that is hard to find even in 5-star hotels. It presents a luxurious home-from-home for relaxing and entertaining, and I recommend it highly.

Ivy Roost Cottage is found on a quiet country road in East Boldre in the New Forest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. East Boldre has a village shop, an organic butcher and farm shop, and two excellent pubs are within easy reach.

It is only 90 miles from London and the journey is usually accomplished in about 1½ hours.

The Isle of Wight ferry is 5 minutes away.

The cottage is only a short drive from the small town of Lymington on the coast.

Beaulieu village and Motor Museum are just a few miles away.

For more information visit Ivy Roost Cottage here

travel reviews

Careys Manor Hotel

hotel review This is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt corners of the British Isles. The New Forest is an area in southern England with an expanse of open pasture, heath and forest and it covers south-west Hampshire, south-east Wiltshire and on to east Dorset.

The New Forest was created as a royal hunting ground by William I, the chap who came over in 1066. His dedication to sport has allowed these acres (380 km2) to remain relatively unchanged, and the roaming cattle and horses add to the charm. Yes, those animals are fearless in the face of traffic, adopting a strategy of making eye contact with car drivers whilst continuing to nibble the grass verge with a minimum of two hooves on the tarmac.

Two of the top hotels in the New Forest National Park have been awarded the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2012: Careys Manor & SenSpa in Brockenhurst and its sister hotel The Montagu Arms in Beaulieu have both received that honour, and one can see why.

hotel review The Careys Manor we see today was built in 1888 on the site of former buildings named after John Carey, who was given the original Manor in the mid-1600s by Charles II as a reward for his service. The present owners bought the hotel in 1975 and later the pub at the front of the hotel which was renovated and transformed into Le Blaireau, the French Bar and Bistro, giving hotel visitors even more dining choices.

This casual dining option tempts locals as well as hotel guests. Its menu offers French classics in an informal setting that will raise a smile. The walls are covered with Parisian tiles, the tables are marble-topped, there is a 2CV embedded in the wall, and an alley from Marseilles has been imported for your Francophile delight.

The changes didn’t stop with the bistro. In 2004, the Health Club underwent extensive updating and was transformed into the award-winning SenSpa. It has a pronounced Thai theme with teak carving and mirrors in the exercise studio, black fabric and bamboo in the areas dedicated to meditation and quiet. One doesn’t even have to move far from the swimming pool to enjoy authentic Thai food: the Zen Garden Thai restaurant has hand-decorated columns and exotic foliage that will convince the visitor that they have stumbled upon a rather classy corner of Bangkok.

hotel review Back in the main hotel, the Manor Lounge has a wood-vaulted ceiling and was added to the main building in 1983; it is the area of choice on cold wintery days. The huge fireplace and soft sofas make the lounge perfect for, well, lounging and reading the papers, and possibly dozing near those blazing logs.

The main entrance of Careys Manor is just what one would hope for in a former Victorian hunting lodge. Its reception is oak panelled with an inviting open fire. The imposing staircase sweeps guests up to their rooms, which are well appointed with all the amenities befitting the Manor’s 4-star status. The Victoriana is picturesque, but one will appreciate the electricity, TV, hot showers, and all the other benefits of the 21st century. There is something comforting about staying in a country house hotel: one finds a timeless quality and a genteel elegance. Careys Manor is one of the finest of these characterful hotels, and it’s the attention to detail that has guests returning.

Quality continues in the dining room. Low ceilings, cornice mouldings and wall-lights contrive to make this an intimate experience. The tables are well-spaced, the service friendly but unobtrusive, and the food is outstanding. The menu changes frequently to take advantage of the freshest of local produce from land and sea, and all dishes are presented with flair and a touch of innovation. This is British food with a little French je ne sais quoi, each dish prepared by executive chef Chris Wheeldon, who deserves his two AA Rosettes.

Careys Manor is a hotel for all seasons and for all occasions. Its setting in the New Forest is ideal for long walks and for visiting Beaulieu and other historic villages, as well as Lyndhurst with its traditional high street and tea rooms. But the Manor has the advantage over other hotels in the neighbourhood: it has its celebrated SenSpa which is a destination in its own right. I have visited many excellent spas in the UK, Europe and Asia but SenSpa is outstanding with its pool, steam rooms, treatment rooms, and gym. It’s available for the enjoyment of hotel guests but it’s also appreciated by non-residents who just want day membership.

hotel review Careys Manor is whatever you want it to be – relaxing, vibrant, healthful, or indulgent. Its setting is striking but it will be hard to pull yourself away from these superb facilities; so come for a few days and then you might even find the time for an outing to visit the wildlife.

Careys Manor & SenSpa
Brockenhurst, New Forest
Hampshire, SO42 7RH
Phone: 01590 623551
Fax: 01590 622799
Central Reservations: 01590 624467

Visit Careys Manor here

travel reviews

The Montagu Arms

restaurant review The New Forest is a beautiful and ancient area in the south of England and is in fact very far from ‘new’. It was a royal hunting estate and was created in 1079 by William I. You will likely know him as William the Conqueror who took possession of that tract of land and everything else in England after that celebrated Hastings battle of 1066.

It was first recorded as "Nova Foresta" in the Domesday Book in 1086. This was a survey of all the king’s possessions including people and other livestock. It is the only forest that the book considers in detail, indicating its significance.

The unique forest still maintains many of the benefits given to local people by the Crown hundreds of years ago. There are pasturing rights for the locals, known as commoners, to graze their ponies, cattle, pigs and donkeys in the open forest.

Palace House was begun in 1204 as the gatehouse to Beaulieu Abbey, and has been the ancestral home of the Montagu family since 1538, when it was bought following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. It was extended in the 16th century, and again in the 19th. The Beaulieu River runs through the estate and is one of the few privately owned rivers in the world.

The montegu arms The Montagu Arms is on the Beaulieu Estate but not owned by it, and was built around 200 years ago. Since the 16th century there has been an inn on the site of this hotel, which would originally have been a meeting place for those aforementioned commoners. It held timber auctions and a cattle market, which took place at the inn until 1809. The original building front was demolished in 1887, with the new building, incorporating Monty's Inn, being completed in 1888. In 1925 the building was extended to its present size.

The front of The Montagu Arms is classically English and somehow frozen in time, but park around the back and enter through the garden and you see another facet of Englishness. Tight planting of traditional shrubs and annuals with small manicured lawns welcomes the guest who might be staying over or just on a visit for the celebrated Afternoon Tea.

The montagu arms The reception area is cosy and a vision of dark oak panels. A wide sweeping staircase leads guests to the first floor and 22 stunning bedrooms and suites. Our rooms consisted of a sumptuous bedroom with leaded windows but contemporary furniture accented with antiques. The bathroom was huge, light, bright and far from anything experienced by guests 200 years ago; that would probably have consisted of a bucket. I love modern amenities.

The adjoining private sitting room was stylishly furnished, with coffee and tea-making facilities (although there is a wake-up-cuppa service for those who need a bit of morning encouragement). This space is ideal for after-dinner unwinding. The turn-down service will have been in while you dined and will have closed the curtains and puffed up the cushions. A break at The Montagu Arms isn’t a thing to be hurried. Take your cue from the ponies: graze and wander and enjoy the quiet.

The Montagu Arms is blessed with a Michelin-starred restaurant. The Terrace is presided over by Chef Matthew Tomkinson. He has a passion for local and seasonal produce. He respects it and presents it with innovation. He can confection a simple soup that you’ll still be talking about when you are sipping coffee in your private sitting room – how often can you say that a soup has held your attention?

The Terrace is wood-panelled and has a 1920s feel about it. The tables are well-spaced to allow for relaxed conversation. The menu changes with the season and there will always be a new slant on even the most common of vegetables. The food is what you might expect to find in France but it is truly British. It’s a myth to suppose that we need to cross La Manche to find a spectacular dinner.

The montegu arms Cannelloni of Braised Rabbit with Glazed Spring Vegetables, Black Pudding Puree and Mustard Sauce was my starter. Take the opportunity to try bunny. It’s a healthy meat and flavourful without being over-gamey. The sauce added an aromatic heat.

We were served a little amuse bouche of beetroot soup with goats curd. This was almost too beautiful to eat; the culinary equivalent of that ruby-red cut-glass from Eastern Europe. Beetroot is becoming more popular and is now seen fresh in supermarkets, and is being treated as a sweet vegetable rather than a pickle reserved for Sunday teatime.

Saddle of Welsh Spring Lamb with Confit Belly, Crispy Sweetbread, Glazed Potatoes, Goat’s Curd and Capers was outstanding. Sweetbreads are often mistakenly believed to be the dangly bits of an animal. In fact, they’re two separate glands - the thymus (from the throat) and the pancreas (from the heart or stomach) that can be taken from calves or lambs. I love them and can honestly say that there is nothing not to like. It’s offal but it’s mild in flavour and usually with a soft and comforting texture; here Matthew adds a crunchy coating. A must try dish on this menu.

The montagu arms Assiette of Pennington House Apples with Apple Sorbet and Butterscotch Sauce was dessert. This was a medley of apple sweets, and was a showcase for Matthew Tomkinson's skill. Yes, it’s only apples as the star ingredient but it’s a dessert that illustrates why that Michelin star has found a home here. This as well as the rest of the menu offered a few ideas that I might try at home. OK, there was plenty that was cheffy but there were elements that would work in a domestic kitchen with a regular home cook at the range.

The Montagu Arms takes cheese seriously. It has a proper cheese trolley which is a fast-disappearing vehicle. It rolls around the restaurant offering a full complement of cheese, giving guests the opportunity to taste some of the carefully chosen selection.

The gastronomic delights continue with breakfast. Matthew and his staff keep chickens and those free-range eggs are used to great advantage at breakfast. Those and the fresh vegetables are delivered to the kitchen daily, and sometimes more frequently than that. Excellent produce transformed into Michelin-standard meals, and all in this idyllic and historic corner of the New Forest. The Montagu Arms is just what you would hope it to be.

The Montagu Arms Hotel
New Forest
SO42 7ZL
Phone: 01590 612324
Visit The Montagu Arms Hotel here

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