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Balmer Lawn Hotel’s Beresford Restaurant in Brockenhurst created truly memorable food-first dining experience

BALMER Lawn Hotel’s Beresfords restaurant has just undergone a major revamp, and I was keen to see it in all its glory and enjoy what I expected to be some outstanding food.

The venue looked stunning when I arrived on a Thursday evening, walls adorned in botanical print and the use of dark heritage colours bringing a sense of intimacy and homeliness.

The huge arched windows dominate the room, adding height and elegance to the space, and it was easy to imagine the natural light flooding the restaurant come summer.

Beresford Restaurant at Balmer Lawn Hotel
Beresford Restaurant at Balmer Lawn Hotel

As soon as we sat down, I was struck by the tables – solid and tactile with heavy grain markings showing off the natural beauty of the wood.

The restaurant – in fact the building, which is a significant landmark in the Forest – is full of character that has been thoughtfully enhanced by the work undertaken by the Wilson family, who have owned the hotel since 1997.

Beresford Restaurant at Balmer Lawn Hotel
Beresford Restaurant at Balmer Lawn Hotel

Busy for a weekday winter evening, the venue had a great atmosphere which I enjoyed soaking up, champagne cocktail in hand.

The menu is expansive and changes with the seasons, with dishes well organised under “field”, “sea” and “forest” categories.

My starter was pan fried scallops with pomegranate, rock oyster emulsion and smoked pancetta crumb.

Perfectly cooked, the scallops were soft and yielding with a little golden crispiness to them, boasting a beautiful balance of sweet and briny flavours with a buttery smoothness.

The pancetta crumb gave the dish a salty hit of flavour, but did well not to overwhelm the delicacy of this elegant starter.

Balmer Lawn Hotel scallops
Balmer Lawn Hotel scallops

The beauty of the dish was in its simplicity, which allowed all the elements to shine.

My mum opted for the twice baked chorizo souffle with creamed leeks and gruyere cheese. A lesson in how to ramp up the decadence of what is, essentially, a cloud of cheese – just add chorizo.

It was exceptional in glorious flavour, with great pillowy texture and visually appealing in a pool of golden, bubbling cream sauce.

This French classic was warming and hearty; the ultimate winter treat.

The cheese souffle
The cheese souffle

Next up was rack of lamb with rosemary pommes anna, grilled leeks, smoked celeriac puree and red wine jus.

The meat, served medium rare, pink and rosy on the inside with a nice sear on the outside, was on the bone for maximum flavour. It was wonderfully succulent with a superb gamey taste.

Thinly sliced potatoes, cooked in lots of butter, were beautifully arranged and the herbs were a great aromatic addition that stood up well to the flavourful lamb.

Nutty celeriac brought a lovely touch of sweetness to the meal; my one small criticism would be there wasn’t quite enough of the velvety rich jus.

The meat was served on the bone for maximum flavour
The meat was served on the bone for maximum flavour

My mum had ordered the grilled breast of chicken, New Forest truffle and wild mushroom casserole, and smoked bone marrow mash.

I had serious food envy after trying it. The dish combined the best wintry, woodland flavours, bringing complete food satisfaction.

Truffle and mushrooms introduced great depth, giving a double-dose of earthy flavour, and paired with the tender chicken was a winning combination.

With the addition of the bone marrow, this was pimped-up mash – even more creamy, silky smooth and packed with rich flavour, it was elevated to new heights.

Balmer Lawn Hotel toffee apple
Balmer Lawn Hotel toffee apple

Dessert was spiced rum baba with Chantilly cream and orange and passionfruit compote, a beguilingly sweet, light cake heady with hot boozy syrup.

The cream, airy and delicate in texture, brings extra subtle sweetness and tones down the kick of the rum, and the compote gives this retro dessert a great citrus twist.

On the other side of the table, my mum tucked into toffee apple mousse with apple sorbet and pecan crumb, which really was exquisite looking.

A white chocolate apple sitting across the plate from a vibrant ball of green sorbet, linked with a little trail of nuts, this was a real show-stopper of a dessert.

The mousse was cool and silky, with the sharp apple and fresh crispness of the sorbet offsetting the sweetness of the chocolate and toffee.

Service at the hotel was exceptional from the get-go; warm and friendly yet completely professional, the waiting staff got the balance just right.

Beresfords restaurant and its staff had created a truly memorable food-first dining experience, with the added charm of a really beautiful setting right in the heart of the New Forest.

For more information on Balmer Lawn Hotel or to book a table, visit www.balmerlawnhotel.com or call 01590 623116.

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