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Food lovers guide to the New Forest…

Our top 10 places to eat outside in the New Forest this summer

  1. What is is about eating outside that makes everything taste so much better! Don’t worry, we’ve taken the sweat out of choosing where, what and how…  Here’s our guide to the perfect New Forest al fresco dining spot…

1. For a cool ‘at home in the country’ atmosphereThe Courtyard at The Pig Hotel in Brockenhurst. With its traditional entrance hall, greenhouse dining room, bar, drawing room and fab’ library room, The Pig wouldn’t be out of place in a game of Cluedo. So, if it’s outdoor dining with simple and delicious British garden food you’re after, then choose the Piggy Bits, and then, possibly, a Tomahawk Pork chop, with tobacco onions and garden rocket. We love the Lemon basil posset and shortbread for pud. 

2. For garden lovers…(and less for kids) If your idea of pure joy is being able to gaze upon a microcosm of a Gertrude Jekyll-style garden – complete with sculpted water feature – then you’ve come to the right place. The Terrace restaurant at The Montagu Arms in Beaulieu is charming. Food here is created by a Roux Scholar chef Matt Tomkinson. It is as you’d expect with that pedigree, perfect and particular. Not really suited to kids. Some of the ingredients come from the very garden you are sitting in. Start with fennel velouté with crispy mussels, samphire and dill oil, with honey roast free range chicken and broccoli puree for mains, and white chocolate and passionfruit cheesecake with crème fraiche sorbet to finish. Read more about Beaulieu here. 

3.  For Modern Italian … It has to be Hartnett & Holder at Lime Wood near Lyndhurst.  Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder create locally sourced Italian dishes and during the warm weather you can eat them outside in the true Italian manner. Looking for a special place for a drink and a graze but worried about showers? Lime Wood’s Courtyard bar literally has that covered – they have a retractable roof! Feel overfull after? The walking from here is superb. 

4. For 5 star dining … We’ll have to send you west…a bit. There’s only one New Forest establishment that has this many stars. It’s the restaurant where James Martin was famously the pastry chef and an al fresco lunch at the Chewton Glen near New Milton is something you’ll remember for the rest of the year. However… what you may not know is that you can eat this lunch overlooking Chewton Glen’s delectable surroundings for under £30. Yes, really. Not ideal for children either but if you’re kids are pre-tamed then perhaps? 

5. For walkers and bikers – If you’re enjoying our great outdoors, then Balmer Lawn’s Beresford Restaurant near Brockenhurst, is a great place to break off for lunch. They have three giant parasols to shelter you from the sun, heaters for when the cool wind blows and a menu of fresh food, sourced locally, to re-fuel on for the next part of your day. Or you could just spend the rest of the time with them, admiring the view of the ponies and the forest from their terrace. Hot feet? Take a splash just opposite in the shallow ford. It’s a splashy favourite for families.

6. For river views – Try the Yachtsman’s bar and garden at The Master Builder’s, Bucker’s Hard. Being so close to the water, you’ll want to eat some sumptuous seafood; maybe their spiced, potted crab, or beer battered haddock and chips, all washed down with clotted cream panna cotta, or, possibly, banana sticky toffee pudding. You can take a boat ride downriver and back from here, plus the Maritime museum is a lovely spot for a gander at the local naval history. 

7. For a marine feel – We love the cafe and restaurant at the Yachthaven marina in Lymington. The food is good, the service smiley and the views are fantastic. If the weather is a bit average then eat inside the main restaurant. It has huge wrap around glass windows which overlook the marina, boat wash and out to the Solent. The deck here gets busy in summer and is full of energy and boaty chat. Walk from here along the coastal paths for a post-lunch potter.