THEY say first impressions count, and what a first impression the Bold Forester makes – particularly if you knew the pub of old, writes Chris Chester.

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Reopened only a few weeks ago, owners Debbie and Dwayne Lewis, general manager Chris Piears, Head chef Jake Henry and the rest of the team, have been very bold indeed.

The £1m refurbishment is evident everywhere. Inside, a fantastic rustic design has been incorporated throughout the new spacious layout; there’s also a quiet and comfortable snug area and grandma’s pantry where morning coffee, afternoon tea, delicious cakes, biscuits, and jams can be enjoyed by all.

The old skittle alley has gone; one idea is to use the space to provide rooms for those wanting overnight accommodation or a short stay. And it’s dog friendly too!

Inside the Bold Forester in Beaulieu Road, Marchwood

Outside, the one-and-a-half acre grounds have had attention but are still as scenic and tranquil as ever.

Debbie explained that The Bold Forester offered a freehold opportunity to add to their portfolio of pubs. Chris had been manager with them at The New Forest Inn for three-and-a-half years before taking on the general manager role, while Jake was at The Mortimers Arms at Ower and Royal Oak at Downton before becoming the head chef.

The philosophy is to provide affordable great food and drink with excellent service in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, whether it’s just an impromptu evening out or part of a special celebration.

There’s a good range of beers, lagers and cider and an excellent selection of wines, and it was nice to see the option to buy most wines by the carafe as well as by the bottle or glass.

The new menu caters for every taste and offers traditional pub fare as well as some delicious takes on old and new dishes; all using ingredients sourced throughout Hampshire, most as locally as possible.

For starters, my dining partner opted for a warm scotch egg and salad (£6.50), whilst I chose the pressed confit duck, chicken and apricot terrine with sourdough toast and a pear and blackberry chutney (£6.99).

Both were homemade, generously-portioned and very tasty. Chris popped over to check the drinks situation and that we were happy with our choices – our cleaned plates gave a clear answer.

Second course for my partner was lamb liver with a truffle oil mash, savoy cabbage, bacon, onion and red wine gravy (£14.50). He was very happy with his choice too: just pink liver, the bacon was crispy, he could taste the truffle in the mash, and there was plenty of gravy.

With the festive season almost upon us, I couldn’t resist ‘A partridge in a pear tree’. This was  a New Forest partridge wrapped in smoked streaky bacon, fondant potato, caramelised pear with stilton, creamed savoy cabbage and caraway seeds accompanied by a berry jus (£15.50).

I really enjoyed every bit, the stilton didn’t overpower the pear, the fondant potato was soft and buttery, the berry jus pulled everything together and I picked over every last part of my partridge.

Feeling pretty full, and looking at the choice of desserts on the menu, we needed a little rest before thinking about a pud, so we sat and chatted about how well we both felt changes had worked to make the new Bold Forester feel so welcoming, yet cosy and spacious at the same time; a neat trick and clever planning by the Trading Spaces design team used during the refurb.

Having had some thinking time, we made our choices: zesty lemon tart and a cheese board, which we said we’d share. The tart was really zingy, refreshing and lemony.  On the cheeseboard were cheddar, a salty blue and a not too strong softer goat’s cheese with a really fabulous red onion chutney.

If I’m truthful, although sharing was the plan, I had most of the lemon tart and my partner had most of the cheese and we were very happy with that arrangement.

The Bold Forester at Marchwood is a destination pub well worth the trip, and it should blow its horn long and loud.

The Bold Forester, Beaulieu Road, Marchwood SO40 4UQ

Tel: 023 8017 5588

Email: info@theboldforesternewforest.co.uk

Website: www.theboldforesternewforest.co.uk.

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