Review: The Elderflower restaurant in Lymington was a foodie escape, promising charm, artistry and sheer delight
THE Elderflower offers a unique and intimate dining experience, taking foodies on a delightful gastronomic journey in the most serene of settings.
What struck me on entering Lymington’s fine dining restaurant, located on a pretty cobbled street approaching the quayside, was the utter calm of the place.
The beautiful Grade II listed venue is an escape, with elegant but simple decor, a charming atmosphere and a focus on inventive and delicious food.
Having been relieved of our coats and positioned at a table with a great view of the town’s famous cobbles, we were given a brief outline of what to expect throughout the evening.
The surprise tasting experience would feature five courses, paired with wines, with menus presented only at the conclusion of the meal.
First up was a seasonal heather smoked grouse glazed with New Forest honey and accompanied by a crispy pastry tube (feuille de brick, to those in the know) filled with celeriac and apple ice cream.
The subtle, earthy, sweet taste of the ice cream allowed the distinctive gamey flavour of the meat to shine through. Curing the grouse had given it a pleasingly smooth texture which, coupled with the silky ice cream, melted in the mouth.
Nieport, a Portuguese white port sweet on the palate, was served with the dish, and as with all the courses it was a plentiful measure.
Our second course was sea urchin veloute with lemon tapioca, sauteed prawns, clams in white wine, and a fennel froth.
The briny flavour of the sea urchin was great with the acid tapioca pearls, which had taken on the citrus flavour well, and the addition of the froth brought a fun, creative and refreshing quality to the dish.
Served on the side was a beautifully golden prawn toast topped with a coating of colourful black and white sesame seeds. Packed full of fresh flavour, it was incredibly moreish.
An Italian dry white, Castello di Tassarolo, came with this course. With orchard fruit flavours, it paired beautifully with the seafood.
The next dish, served with a Sancerre Lauverjat from the Loire Valley, was the most exceptional, in my humble opinion.
Locally-caught red mullet, squid, smoked mussels, chorizo, quinoa and a bouillabaisse sauce came together harmoniously to bring tastes of sea.
The mullet held up well to the robust flavours of the smoky muscles and punchy heat of the chorizo, and the silky sauce was packed with rich, fishy flavour. A vibrant green salsa verde was dotted throughout the dish, providing colour and little taste explosions.
Venison was next on the menu, served with a confit red onion petal stuffed with biltong braised lentils, roast butternut squash and preserved lemon puree.
The second seasonal and sustainable meat of the night was intensely savoury, the star of a comforting and utterly satisfying dish. Sweetness of the onion and autumnal squash balanced the deep flavour of the biltong and venison – a sumptuous conclusion to the savoury dishes of the night.
Rounding off our evening in style was a culinary masterpiece – The Elderflower’s signature Forest Floor, a ‘tree log’ of tempered chocolate contain a blackberry parfait, with pistachio sponge, foraged rosehip gel and hazelnut ice cream.
Making the best of the season’s fruits, the tang of the parfait cut through the rich chocolate, with the pistachio ‘moss’ bringing intrigue, great colour contrast and perfect balance to the sweetness.
Andrew du Bourg, who helms the restaurant with wife Marjolaine, has a clear passion for food that translates through every dish.
The multitude of elements in each elaborate course came together to create a symphony of tastes and an abundance of textures that dazzle the taste buds.
There was ambitiousness and innovation behind every mouthful, and what was so great about the tasting menu was the communal nature of it – my friend and I could really share the joy of it.
Service by restaurant manager Bruce Long and assistant manager Ben Harris was outstanding – each course was announced and there was complete clarity on the food and wine.
What also set the restaurant apart was the ample space between tables, so overhearing the conversations of fellow diners was not an issue.
The Elderflower is high end, so of course the prices reflect that, but if you’re looking for a memorable and immersive experience that combines finely tuned ambiance with the pure delight of exceptional food and wine, this is the place for you.
For more information or to book a table, visit https://elderflowerrestaurant.co.uk/