As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the New Forest, Florence Fortnam picks out a selection of restaurants, tearooms and traditional pubs to find the best local food and drink in this glorious protected area in the south of England.
From succulent local venison and smoked Fordingbridge trout to the freshest vegetables and herbs grown in restaurant gardens - almost every New Forest menu is peppered with ingredients that have been raised, grown and farmed within the forest itself.
Whether you choose to visit an exclusive award-winning restaurant or a traditional thatched-roof pub there seems to be one shared belief - that the freshest New Forest ingredients make the very best dishes. New Forest Marque producers are teaming up with chefs to create outstanding cuisine that has travelled almost no distance to arrive on your plate. At one end of the culinary spectrum you'll discover hearty pub grub and delicious cask ales, at the other, the very latest Michelin-starred techniques - not to mention everything in between!
Ideal for those looking to add a little je ne c’est quoi to their New Forest experience, Blaireau’s Brasserie and bar is situated in the grounds of the Carey’s Manor Hotel and offers an authentic French twist on local New Forest produce. The staff work hard to insert a little Parisian luxury into your visit, while the chef cooks up dishes such as cod tempura and Barbary duck breast using only the freshest organic ingredients. From French classics to nouvelle cuisine, the meals are wholly dependent on the fresh goods of the local markets. blaireaus.com
Overlooking the Montagu Arms’ fantastic country garden, the Terrace Restaurant offers both traditional and contemporary dishes cooked up by Michelin-starred chef Matthew Tomkinson. What’s more, Montagu’s strict ethical food policy means that each innovative dish is made using largely local and organic produce, including herbs and veg from the hotel’s kitchen garden. The impressive seven-course taster menu consists of the chef’s finest dishes, each accompanied by a well-matched glass of wine as nominated by Montagu’s specialist sommeliers. montaguarmshotel.co.uk/terrace_restaurant
The Master Builder's
At the centre of Lord Montagu’s Beaulieu estate, overlooking the tranquil river, sits the Master Builder’s. Also a hotel, there are two options for food here – the Yachtsman’s Bar and the Riverside restaurant. At the bar, organic cheeses and New Forest jams pepper the menu. In the restaurant, choose between free-range chicken, Lymington crab and the sumptuous ‘best catch’ dish. Expect carts loaded with award-winning cheeses, complete with home made apple and beetroot chutney and vintage ports. In the autumn, Master Builder's also offers a special Game Menu. themasterbuilders.co.uk
A rustic country fare on the grounds of the Montagu Arms hotel offering classic English favourites, including arguably the best Ploughman's in Hampshire using only the finest local cheeses. Monty’s serves a selection of award-winning, hand-pulled Ringwood ales. The sausages are supplied by Pondhead Farm and the steak locally-reared, while eggs are sourced from their own free-range chickens and the meat makes the short trip from Hampshire. Monty’s has just won its first AA Rosette for culinary excellence. montaguarmshotel.co.uk/montys_inn
The Mill at Gordleton
The restaurant serves delicious dishes using only the finest local produce, including New Forest venison and pork, depending on the season. In addition, they make all their bread, ice cream, soups and sauces on site. At the front of the hotel, a snug bar overlooks the river and offers a varied a la carte menu. In summer, enjoy country air on the gorgeous riverside terrace. In Winter, snuggle up in front of the cosy log fire. themillatgordleton.co.uk
A newly refurbished bar and restaurant based on the idyllic setting of Hythe Marina. The Boathouse is a good choice for either lunch or dinner, or for simply enjoying a drink at the waterside bar. Head chef Gavin Barnes has carefully selected the menu in accordance with New Forest Marque guidelines and serves up such delicacies as Melton Mowbray pork pie, grilled Greenfields gammon steak and nicoise salad with Cornish sardines and soft-poached egg. boathousehythe.co.uk
The Old Station Tearooms
The specials board is never the same two days running at the Station House. From the baked pork belly to the steamed fillet of sea bass, the tea room endeavors to offer only the freshest local produce that you can enjoy either outside in the garden, or under the shade of the station canopy. For dessert there’s the famous gluten-free fruit scones with a dollop of local cream. Sitting alongside the old railway line, the setting is perfect for walkers, cyclists and even horse riders. stationhouseholmsley.com
The Oak Inn
This 17th century building was once a cider house before eventually evolving into an award-winning pub. Proudly serving locally produced ales from behind a small, wooden bar, the Oak Inn has won awards for its culinary delights. It serves venison from a local game keeper and local pork from a free range farm shop, free range eggs from a farm close by, as well as local cheeses. It also majors in seafood, with plenty of crab and lobster on the summer menu, plus locally sourced shellfish. fullers.co.uk/rte.asp
The Pilgrim Inn
The Pilgrim Inn consists of two beautiful, newly thatched buildings – one being home to the pub/restaurant while the other houses a selection of comfortable rooms. The pub prides itself on using local, seasonal and fresh produce, having recently won the Hampshire Dish of the Year award for its 28 day aged fillet steak served with a smoked bacon and cream sauce. The two buildings are just a step apart, and both are surrounded by lush gardens where you can relax whether you’re staying for a week or an afternoon. pilgriminnmarchwood.co.uk
The Huntsmen of Brockenhurse
A great example of a traditional forest inn, located in a pretty cottage garden and dating back to the 13th century. Cask ales are served at the bar, to be enjoyed in the natural surrounding of the beer garden. New Forest Marque produce spans the entire menu - the New Forest burger is made with beef sourced from the local Oakwood butcher, while the New forest treacle tart makes for a uniquely local dessert. Why not go the whole hog and visit on a Sunday to sample the delicious carvery. thehuntsmanofbrockenhurst.com
The White Buck Inn
A former country house with seven stylish refurbished bedrooms, The White Buck is set in two and a half acres in the heart of the New Forest, a wonderful location for a relaxing stay. Well known for fine food and cask ales, the inn combines rustic charm with a traditional atmosphere and attractive period-style bars. Owners Claire and Dave deliver an excellent range of pub classics, many including fresh New Forest ingredients, such as Keeper's and Hunter's salads, spinach and wild mushroom lasagne and Jilly's daily changing short crust pie. whitebuckburley.co.uk
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