THE New Forest Inn at Emery Down, Lyndhurst, is steeped in history and custom.
It began life in the latter part of the 18th Century, when a group of squatters claimed a piece of land from the King and set up a caravan, selling beer to the villagers.
The practice has never stopped and that very caravan now forms the front part of the pretty country pub.
The New Forest Inn has a relaxed atmosphere, helped by the smell of two burning log fires, and a genuinely warm welcome from the young team of staff.
Unlike some New Forest pubs that have become successful eating places, it still feels like a traditional pub, with plenty of different spaces to enjoy drinks with friends. It has achieved CAMRA certification and the family owners are obviously proud of the quality ales they serve.
The restaurant area, to the side, is cosy and traditionally furnished. We chose a little window table for two: great for looking out and watching ponies ambling past, as well as donkeys, cows and pigs.
We are handed a very grand looking menu in a dark wood case with brass hinges, and begin to peruse the choice. It is vast! There is also a specials board which included chargrilled 8 oz. onglet steak (£12.99) whole baked Camembert (£9.99), pan roasted hake supreme (£14.99) and BBQ pulled pork bap (£11.99).
The choice of starters was varied and quirky, with Grilled kippers with horseradish hollandaise on a toasted croute (£7.99) and Battered Chorizo sausage with a saffron mayonnaise catching my eye (£6.99).
In the end I opted for Smoked Salmon with rye bread, avocado puree and lemon tea jelly (£7.99) while my dining partner (DP) chose Nachos with melted cheese, salsa and sour cream and added jalapenos (£6.99). A bottle of Venetto Pinot Grigio was to accompany the meal (£20).
The smoked salmon was full of flavour and the avocado puree and lemon tea jelly, both fresh and a great contrast in texture and taste. We laughed when DP’s starter arrived as it was HUGE! Please note this could easily be an enjoyable, satisfying main meal, and it would be a snip at £6.99.
There is also a wide choice of mains on offer at The New Forest Inn. It really is a wonderful place to come with a group of family or friends who have different tastes in cuisine, as I am sure that everybody would find something to savour.
From the traditional ham, egg and chips (£11.99) to English classics like Rag pudding with mash and cabbage (£13.99) a Vegetarians’ Delight selection, Grill and Burger choice, and fabulous, well-priced ‘Tiny Tums’ dishes such as thin crust pizza and macaroni cheese.
I went for Homemade Steak and Flack Manor Ale shortcrust pastry pie with chips, veg and gravy (£12.99) while DP wanted to try the Sweet Potato and Lentil Korma with spiced quinoa, homemade chapati, onion bhaji and chutneys (£11.99).
As we waited for the mains, I started reading the introduction to The New Forest Inn and learned that the Captain of the Titanic, Edward John Smith, spent his final night on British shores at the pub before he set sail on the ill-fated ship the next day.
As I say, this place is steeped in history!
DP was delighted with his sweet potato curry. It was quite different and showed adventure by the chef. The onion bhaji, very obviously homemade, was worthy of note too.
The homemade steak and ale pie did not disappoint. The pastry was light, and the chunks of steak were top quality and braised to perfection. The chips were chunky and the veg, I was pleased to say, was crispy and not over-cooked.
It was a lovely meal, although a very large one. As I have said before, pub portions seem to be double the size of restaurant portions … so that is great for bigger appetites.
After a little food rest, and a bit more history reading (I didn’t realise that the famous Snake catcher of the New Forest, Henry ‘Brusher’ Mills was born in Emery Down in 1840) we looked at the dessert menu.
This evening’s choice was Crumble of the day (Apple and redcurrant), Cheesecake of the day (orange and redcurrant), Sticky toffee pudding, chocolate brownie, fruit and nut filo tart with raspberry ripple ice cream, and blood orange parfait. All are priced at £6.25
There’s also a choice of other ice cream and sorbets, which tempted DP, who chose three scoops of sorbet: Champagne, Strawberry and Lemon. I went for a favourite of mine, sticky toffee pudding with custard, which I always think is perfect for a winter’s evening.
The sorbet had a lovely consistency and was full of flavour, where some sorbets can just taste and feel frozen and bland. The sticky toffee pudding was delicious, and I was pleased with the sensible-sized portion, and the fact the hot custard was served on the side in a little jug, so that I could pour as much as I wanted onto the sponge.
Dining at The New Forest Inn was a really enjoyable experience; great food, good company, warm surroundings — and I learnt a little more New Forest history too.
THE NEW FOREST INN, EMERY DOWN
Emery Down, Nr. Lyndhurst SO43 7DY
023 8028 4690 www.thenewforestinn.co.uk