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New Park Manor: enjoy a taste of France at King Charles II's favourite hunting lodge

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SEVENTEENTH century grandeur meets contemporary chic at the warm and welcoming New Park Manor on the outskirts of Brockenhurst

What was once King Charles II’s favourite hunting lodge and the home of his long term mistress Nell Gwynn is now a modern spa hotel set in spacious grounds.

On our arrival we were greeted warmly and shown through to the elegant restaurant which was low lit with candles for an ambient feel. Featuring oak floorboards, chandeliers and large Georgian sash windows, the luxurious dining area also combined 21st century style with lovely fabric chairs and fresh sprays of flowers on each table.

The Stag dining room at New Park Manor in Brockenhurst
The Stag dining room at New Park Manor in Brockenhurst

We loved the large wall painting apparently depicting a group of portly naked middle aged men taking part in a sack race – a quirky feature which added a comical talking point!

We were visiting during January to sample the hotel’s month long Taste of France menu which offers two courses for £19.50 or three courses for £25.

Fans of French cuisine will have plenty to choose from with an impressive and varied selection of five options for every course.

We were served by an extremely attentive and welcoming French waitress who immediately put us at ease by gently attempting to persuade us to take the plunge and try out the escargots à la Provençale – which translated as Dorset snails with a Provençale style sauce (£2 supplement).

To accompany our meal we felt it was only right to choose a French wine and opted for a bottle of Les Hauts Du Canalet (£26) which was full bodied but easy drinking.

The selection of starters all sounded very appealing and it was a difficult choice between French onion soup served with sourdough croutons and Gruyère cheese, cheese soufflé or moules marinières.

After some deliberation I chose the moules marinières served in a white wine, garlic and parsley sauce alongside fresh crusty bread. The portion size was generous and the mussels were plump and perfectly cooked.

My dining partner was a little braver than me and opted for the escargots which were served on bruschetta with a ratatouille-style sauce of tomato and garlic. The dish was beautiful presented on a bed of salad leaves and he described the snails as tender and flavoursome.

Both starter dishes were plentiful and extremely tasty, and were served with a generous helping of crusty bread and butter.

Turning our attention to the main courses, we were again spoilt for choice with a selection that included two fish dishes, duck, beef bourguignon and chicken – although surprisingly no vegetarian option.

I was tempted to choose the confit de canard, which featured a slow cooked duck leg served with fondant potatoes, red cabbage with prunes and port, in a wild blueberry and rosemary sauce, but decided to opt for the French classic coq au vin.

A chance to relax outside at New Park manor in Brockenhurst
A chance to relax outside at New Park manor in Brockenhurst

My dining partner chose the sole meunière which featured local lemon sole cooked in a light batter with new potatoes, broccoli and baby carrots. He described the dish as light, delicate and perfectly cooked.

Again the portion sizes were very generous with the coq au vin featuring two very large thighs braised in a red wine jus with mushroom, smoked bacon lardons and onions. The chicken was moist and perfectly cooked to fall off the bone, and the sauce was rich and deep in flavour. The dish was complimented by the fresh green beans and new potatoes.

The dessert selection offered up an equally tempting choice of French inspired dishes including poire belle Helène which was poached pear, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce and crêpes Suzette – pancakes served with Grand Marnier liqueur and vanilla ice cream. However, after a little deliberation, I chose the hot chocolate fondant which had a warm oozing rich centre and was served with wonderful pistachio ice cream.

My partner could not resist the selection of four French cheeses served with quince jelly, biscuits, celery and chutney, which he described as the perfect finale to a wonderful and memorable meal.

As well as enjoying delicious food we agreed that the attentive and knowledgeable staff made for a brilliant experience, and our only regret was that we did not get to fully appreciate a daylight view of the hotel grounds and parkland. But then that gives us a good excuse to return for dinner in the summer.

For fans of classic cuisine or those simply looking to try something a little different, I would certainly recommend a visit to New Park Manor during the taste of France event which runs until 10th February.

For more information visit www.newparkmanorhotel.co.uk/restaurant

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