The New Forest is a foodies paradise. We love our food and we are particularly careful about food provenance. Where it comes from, how it’s grown, transported and sold is important to us.
The local area is fertile and has good growing seasons. There is an extraordinary group of farmers, fishers and restaurateurs whose hard work you can enjoy. Here’s our guide:
1. Buying local food to cook yourself
Farmers Choice, are a Hampshire based company who supply super high quality local meat, veg and meals by a box scheme direct to your holiday fridge or doorstep – most is sourced along the south coast within 25 miles of our houses.
We interviewed them at length when we met up and grilled them about their suppliers and their farm to fork supply chain. They are themselves a family business and they buy from local farmers, many small producers who can’t attend markets or sell on a large scale because they are too busy growing and caring for their plants and animals. This was music to my ears because, having grown up on a farm myself, I know how much work it takes to do it right. Please do support this company and their farmers. We have a discount code for you to use and you’ll get £20 off your order.
Lymington has a market on Saturdays which is well supported by the locals. It starts at 7.30am and you’ll need to get in early to get the best cuts of meat and veg. It can get very busy around 10am. Half the High Street is closed for most of the day and you’ll find plenty of small artisan producers and bigger market sellers who do ‘the rounds’ and sell stuff from all over.
2. Eating Out
We are spoilt for choice so we’ve cherry picked out our absolute favourites.
- Master Builders, (Bucklers Hard), www.hillbrookehotels.co.uk/the-master-builders, Tel: 01590 616 253
We have a discount card here for 10% on food for our guests. We send masses of guests here and the feedback is always good. The best bit (apart from good quality food) is that there are great short walks from here on easy tracks. There are no cars – so it’s safe playing for kids. There are ducks to feed and a pretty boaty atmosphere all around. Up through the village you’ll find the Maritime Museum which is worth a short trip around. You can also take a short boat trip (for £4.50 per adult) down the Beaulieu River.
- Ciao Belli.Lymington. Tel: 01590 672917
4 Gosport St, Lymington (at the bottom of the High Street toward the train station).
All the locals are talking this up as the best coffee in town (and it’s run by Italians).
The Pig, (Brockenhurst). www.thepighotel.co.uk Tel: 01590 622 354
According to all the glossy magazines, food bloggers and the foodie world, The Pig in The New Forest is the place to be and it’s when you’re there it’s all about the walled garden. The food served is based on what they can grow, forage or find and the chef then creates the 25-mile menu. It’s impressive so really try to go here and look at the gardens at least. Walking from here in the Forest is beautiful too. And the Brockenhurst train station is a 15 minute walk. Book well in advance. You can also pop in for a drink – they have an impressive array of weird and yummy homemade liquers.
The Haven. www.havenrestaurant.co.uk Tel: 01590 679 971 (Lymington)
The view here is lovely and the floor to ceiling glass wall toward the marinas is a treat for views. The cafe is low key and good value. It has a good reputation for serving fresh fish and shellfish. Chef James Dorey’s is a fan of local produce.
There a fantastic new juice and yoghurt bar in Lymington between Tesco’s and the Angel and Blue Pig pub.
Steffs Kitchen, (Fairweather’s Garden Centre), Beaulieu, Tel: 01590 614 951
Run by a local family, this is a well loved lunch spot for a family nosh up on homecooked and healthy options. Everything is freshly prepared. This is also a lovely garden centre in Beaulieu which also has a learning garden with some impressive planting for interactive learning – and it’s wheelchair friendly.
Limewood, (Lyndhurst), www.limewoodhotel.co.uk, Tel: 023 8028 7177
Angela Hartnett has been cooking here for a few years now. It’s stylish and smart and they set their stand on ‘fun dining’ and not ‘fine dining’. The spa there is amazing and well worth a visit if you can get in.
- Slightly further afield is The Hut in Colwell Bay on The Isle of Wight. http://thehutcolwell.co.uk/
- Boat and taxi here, or bus and walk. It’s worth the trip and is the best place for an evening rose. At low tide there’s a sandy beach out the front and mooring for visitors who’ve come by boat.
3. Foraging for foodies:
Our top foraging ideas are this:
- Watch Ray Mears make a beech leaf salad and get out in May and pick yourself one!
- Foraging at Lime Wood is available to guests at the hotel. For reservations contact 02380 287 177 or visit www.limewoodhotel.co.uk. Foraging costs from £140 per person which includes lunch or dinner cooked with the foraged goods.
What to forage for: Even the worst forager can find food in the New Forest at certain times of the year. With a tiny bit of research you will be able to find: Wild Garlic in May. Samphire in summer on the coastal marshes. Berries in autumn. (It’s best leave mushroom foraging to the professionals).