JUST a short stroll from Lyndhurst’s vibrant village centre, the Forest Lodge Hotel is ideal for those wanting a rural retreat with quaint shops and modern services close at hand.

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The hotel, once the Georgian Dower House of the Northerwood Estate, recently relaunched its 1820 Grill and Brasserie, offering a fresh, locally-inspired menu.

Based around its prime hand-cut steaks, the grill menu also includes chicken dishes, pork, and a number of seafood and vegetarian options.

The bright hotel entrance re-imagines classic countryside themes in a relaxed and welcoming context, leading thought to the delightful 1820 dining room – which is open to non-hotel residents as well as guests.

Designed as a chic modern space with dark wood floor and dining tables complemented by a number of bright patterned tub chairs, the dining room also continues the countryside theme with potted plants, standard lamps and botanical sketches mounted on the wall.

Forest Lodge Hotel
Inside the Forest Lodge Hotel’s 1820 Grill and Brasserie

On our Sunday evening visit we were greeted warmly and shown to a corner table overlooking the tranquil dining room.

Our friendly waitress quickly reappeared with a bottle of still water and platter of freshly baked bread served with olive oil and balsamic.

The wine list was extensive with a range of offerings from France, Italy and Spain as well as New World varieties. Several were also available to purchase by the glass and some were helpfully highlighted as good pairing options for particular dishes.

With my husband keen to try out the signature steak, we chose a bottle of Portillo Malbec (£26) which was fruity and full bodied, and was recommended as a great partner for the red meats.

Turning to the choice of starters, we found plenty of intriguing options including a mini classic Caesar salad (£5), smoked salmon salad with pickled vegetables (£6), goat’s cheese and roasted beetroot crispy toasts (£7) and a smoked haddock fish cake with spinach and cream cheese sauce (£7).

However, after sampling the smoked duck breast with radish and berry gel (£6.50) on a previous visit I was delighted to spot it on the menu and picked it without hesitation.

The tender duck breast was finely sliced and served with beautiful edible flowers and wild herbs. I loved the delicious combination of peppery herbs and radish which perfectly complimented the sweet berry gel and rich smoked duck breast.

Meanwhile my husband enjoyed the creamy onion soup (£6) which was well seasoned and sweet, topped with tasty bacon crumbs.

Central to the main course options were various cuts of 28 day matured locally reared beef steak seasoned with thyme & butter, including 8oz sirloin (£23), 10oz rump (£21) or 8oz ribeye on the bone (£28) and a sharing option of beef wellington (£45).

Other grill choices, all served with watercress, tomato and a side dish, included half roast lemon and thyme chicken (£16) and pork T-bone (£16).

My husband selected the 8oz rib eye with béarnaise sauce (£2) and skinny fries which was very tender to the bite and full of flavour. He said the rich and buttery béarnaise sauce was a perfect partner to the locally reared meat.

Aside from the grill options there were also vegetarian choices such as mushroom tagliatelle served with truffle and Old Winchester cheese (£13) and roasted butternut risotto with goats curd and chilli oil (£13).

My choice was the roasted cod with saute potatoes, samphire, mussel beurre blanc and herb crust (£17) which was just incredible – perfectly cooked and a wonderful combination of subtle flavours working well together.

After two delicious courses, expectations were high for our dessert with choices such as sticky toffee pudding with banana and vanilla ice cream and lemon tart with raspberry sorbet (both £6).

I opted for blueberry cheese cake with ripple ice cream (£6) which was served with a splash of colour created by a trio of tiny edible flowers. Although I was feeling pretty full already, I had no trouble in finishing it off – it was a wonderful end to a delicious meal!

My husband chose the rich chocolate brownie served with raspberry and clotted cream (£6) which he also polished off without any difficulty.  He loved the combination of the bitter sweet raspberry, rich cream and dark chocolate, and said he would definitely make the same choice again.

Owned by New Forest Hotels, New Forest Lodge was recently awarded a four-star rating by the AA. Its 1820 Grill and Brasserie is open daily for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The menu includes New Forest breakfast, vegetarian breakfast, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes.

To find out more, go to www.newforesthotels.co.uk/forest-lodge-hotel.

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