Brockenhurst's Forest Park Hotel undergoes huge transformation
A JAR of honey perfectly illustrates how a Brockenhurst hotel managed to win a local business award and rise up the ranks on Tripadvisor in just three months after new owners took over.
Just as I am about to sit down to interview resident director of Forest Park Hotel, Kevin Wood, a couple staying there are asking how they can get their hands on the local honey they were served at breakfast. But it is not for sale at the hotel nor in any shops nearby.
So Kevin immediately jumps up and sources a jar, which is filled with honey for the delighted couple. It is that personal touch which has given the hotel such a great reputation.
As Kevin himself says: “We very rarely say no to anything – if we can do it, we do it.”
In December the hotel won a New Forest Brilliance in Business award for Outstanding Contribution to the New Forest Visitor Economy, sponsored by the A&T, and with its major transformation in recent years it’s easy to see why.
Originally a vicarage built in the 19th century and later the general hospital for Indian and New Zealand military during the First World War, the hotel had an air of gloom about it until Kevin and his team took over in 2018.
A stunning dining room with huge windows looking out onto the garden is the result of a recent £250,000 investment by Kevin and his two business partners, who live in the Forest, to extend the previously underwhelming restaurant.
The hotel reopened following a major refurbishment in the spring of 2019 – unfortunately just as Covid wreaked havoc on the hospitality industry, forcing it to shut again.
It could have spelt disaster for the business but, as Kevin says, the hotel had already built an exemplary reputation so when it reopened it was trading well.
“We have gone from strength to strength,” said Kevin. “We have a lot of regulars, with some people coming back to stay five times a year.”
As well as being hugely popular with tourists, the 40-bedroom hotel is loved by locals who were “stunned” by the improvements.
The hotel’s Inn houses a stylish bar, which is just the place to enjoy the its own Forest Park Brock Gin created by the company 18 Gin and infused with Forest botanicals like water mint.
“We try to source as much food and drink locally as is possible,” said Kevin. “And we are members of the New Forest Marque.”
Bread is supplied by Breadport in New Milton, with eggs coming from Fordingbridge’s Fluffetts Farm and sausages from Crow Farm near Ringwood.
The hotel also serves Sway-based Naked Jam, Brockenhurst-brewed Pig Beer on draft, and wines from Brook Hill vineyard in Bramshaw.
“Our coffee comes from Red Garage, which is roasted by a guy in New Milton, and of course we have woodland mushrooms foraged in the Forest,” said Kevin. “People do love to try the local stuff.”
Food is served in the Acorn restaurant and the Inn, and includes vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
The midweek lunch menu is priced at £19.90 for two courses or £24.90 for three, and features some delicious sounding dishes such as pulled duck with toasted sesame and plum, a gourmet burger made from Isle of Wight prime steak beef, and pavlova with New Forest berries.
A full à la carte menu is available along with tapas options for more casual dining – think grilled halloumi and chorizo skewers served with Isle of Wight tomato jam.
Sunday roasts and afternoon teas are also available, for which guests must book a table.
“The afternoon tea features edible moss and soil, and the ‘woodland logs’ are made of of brandy snaps filled with cream,” explained Kevin. “It looks simply stunning.”
For more information, visit forestpark-hotel.co.uk