SITUATED just outside Brockenhurst in the heart of the New Forest, Forest Park is the  perfect location for ramblers, cyclists, conservationists or those who love a place in the country with great food and drink.

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A recent multi-million-pound refurbishment also makes the hotel a great place for a break, whether for just a cream tea, lunch, dinner, a longer stay or just a drink.

Once visited in the early 1900s by renowned conservationist and 26th President of the USA Theodore Roosevelt, famed for his “square deal” politics, Forest Park has taken a leaf from Teddy’s book and offers great-value dining and accommodation; there’s something for very
taste.

On the beautiful sunny evening myself and my dinner partner visited, we were warmly welcomed by Glyn and the Forest Park staff. Although we chose to dine inside, the option of an al fresco table overlooking the stunning grounds was a consideration.

Glyn told us a little about the speciality drinks available, including two made specially for the hotel: Forest Park Ale, a 4.2% locally brewed bitter, and Forest Park Brock Gin, distilled using botanicals sourced from the New Forest.

My partner decided on the ale, and I chose Brock Bramble, a New Forest gin cocktail, which included fragola, a strawberry liqueur, lime and berries over ice.

There is an excellent selection of dishes to choose from on the menu. Hotel director Kevin Wood along with new head chef — and recent MasterChef contestant — Mateusz Nowatkowski, have ensured a variety of locally sourced, traditional and modern options are available.

Forest Park Brockenhurst review
The staff of Forest Park Brockenhurst

Seven sharing dishes, 11 starters, four salads, and a selection of mains which included aged steaks, poultry, meat, fish, catch of the day and pie and vegetarian choices are offered.

I opted for a starter of grilled halloumi cheese with cherry tomato salsa and pickled carrot, with a pea foam (£9). My partner’s choice was the local steamed mussels in a shallot and white wine, lemon and parsley sauce with a slice of garlic sourdough bread (£11).

My ‘squeaky cheese’ was lovely, the aroma of the cherry tomato salsa more than made my mouth water. My partner summed up his starter in a sentence: “The best mussels I’ve had as long as I can remember” – and a very generous portion it was too. The sourdough perfect to mop up the juices!

My mains choice was the, short-crust, prime beef, stout and oyster pie served with peas and mash (£16). My partner opted for the New Forest venison loin, served with Tatchbury Manor black pudding, baby vegetables, berries and a venison demi-glaze (£22).

From a good selection of red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, we chose a Mendoza  Argentinian Malbec to accompany our mains. My pie was packed with tender, lean pieces of beef, and the separate dish of buttery mash would have satisfied the appetite of the hungriest diner – it was delicious.

Forest Park Brockenhurst review
Inside the Forest Park in Brockenhurst

My partner’s venison looked lovely, just-pink and perfectly presented, surrounded by baby vegetables and berries. He said how well each element complemented each other.

Main courses done and a little rest later, we were choosing our puds. I plumped for the Valrhona chocolate mousse served with a cherry gel, chocolate crackle and a quenelle of Dorset clotted cream (£7.90), and absolutely delicious it was too.

My partner decided on the cheese board, a selection of four local cheeses — Old Winchester, Ashed goats cheese, English blue and Tamworth — served with crackers, fruit, celery, homemade chutney and truffle honey (£10.90). He said it was the perfect way to finish his second glass of Malbec.

Relaxed and satisfied, we chatted to Glyn over coffee about other things Forest Park offers. The ‘Inn’ has a large bar area where the same menu can be enjoyed in more informal surroundings, there’s a good selection of wine, beers and cider, and a huge variety of spirits, particularly whiskies and gins.

Environmentally, Forest Park tries to do its bit too, there’s no gas in the newly fitted kitchen, no plastic in the bar, produce is locally sourced and herbs are from sous chef James Gunn’s garden.

We approved – and we think President Roosevelt would have too.

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