Food review: Samphire Restaurant, Stanwell House Hotel, Lymington
WITH its stunning Georgian facade, Lymington’s elegant Stanwell House Hotel has recently undergone a multi-million-pound refurbishment and transformation before reopening in early December.
Since then its Salt Bar gastro pub has become a favourite meet-up place for celebrations and get-togethers, and is always buzzing with life.
Featuring striking exposed brickwork walls, a magnificent dark-wood bar, chessboard floor tiles and a menu of eye-catching cocktails, it’s little wonder the cosy bar and casual dining restaurant already has a legion of local fans.
Enjoying a leisurely drink from the extensive cocktail list, we were quickly made to feel welcome by the hotel’s superb staff who are knowledgeable, warm and chatty.
Those venturing beyond the bar will see that the stylish transformation extends to every inch of the hotel, from its individually designed boutique bedrooms to the bright and welcoming orangery and the beautifully quirky Samphire restaurant.
Play it safe, the designers did not: with bold wallpapers, colourful prints and eclectic artwork making Stanwell House one of the most uniquely beautiful hotels I’ve ever visited.
The hotel’s fine dining restaurant is a riot of colour – its vibrant floral wallpaper complemented by luxurious velvet chairs, towering palms and beautifully thought-out lighting. The menu is equally eye-catching, with a mouth-watering array of options, many of which champion local producers and suppliers.
Spoilt for choice, we eventually opt for the seafood sharing platter featuring Lymington crab, locally grown mussels, red shrimp and hand-dived scallops. The very generous portion of seafood was served on a bed of vibrant samphire with a lemon hollandaise sauce and sourdough croutons.
A show-stopping dish, every element was cooked to perfection, with the subtle flavours of the Lymington crab perfectly complemented by the bite-sized croutons. The seared scallops were incredible – in fact, my husband was so enamoured I was lucky to get a look-in!
With the first course soon devoured, we paused to enjoy a glass of the Domaine Vincent Morceau, Cotes du Rhone, as we chatted with Samantha who served us. Demonstrating a genuine passion for the hotel and its amazing food and drink offerings, she was extremely knowledgeable and engaging.
As a seafood fan, I was tempted by turbot wrapped in pancetta with fondant potatoes and heritage carrots for my main – but after the similarly themed starter I decided on a peppered fillet and belly of pork.
Served on a bed of brightly coloured cavolo nero, the pork was melt-in-the-mouth tender and well seasoned. Sweet and interesting elements were added by a rich, red wine sauce and subtle carrot puree.
For his main course, my husband chose the 28-day aged sirloin steak, with charred mash, beef confit salsify and red wine jus. Every element was exceptional, both in presentation and flavour, delivering layers of texture and taste.
We had just enough room to end the meal on a sweet not. The dessert menu featured salted caramel fondant served with toffee apples and green apple sorbet, and dark chocolate and gingerbread marquise with whipped white chocolate ganache.
Hoping for a light dish to finish, I opted for the interestingly named To The Land Of Milk And Honey, featuring milk panna cotta and honey cake, with honey pollen, honey curd and honey ice-cream. Delivering a subtle sweet flavour, with the perfect jiggle and a wonderful creaminess, the panna cotta paired well with the moist honey cake.
My husband chose a traditional flavour combination reimagined in the form of a baked duck egg custard tart with Yorkshire rhubarb and vanilla ice cream, which he described as absolute perfection. The sharp tanginess of the rhubarb cut through the creaminess of the custard, atop a buttery crumble base.
Samphire will no doubt continue to grow in popularity, serving as it does the highest quality food that can certainly rival the best New Forest restaurants – but it was the exceptional service that made our visit really special.
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