Our top 10 places to eat outside in the New Forest this summer
- What is is about eating outside that makes everything taste so much better! Don’t worry, we’ve taken the sweat out of choosing where, what and how… Here’s our guide to the perfect New Forest al fresco dining spot…
Our guests spend thousands of pounds a month eating out. We want you to be able to buy and eat the best. To us this means properly local food, supporting craftspeople, farmers and fisherfolk, with the least miles from farm or boat to your fork, cooked by those who know food and served by well trained and smiley local talent. You can save the planet and eat yourself replete.
By making a stand and focusing on what’s right, we can change the way things are done.
This guide will help you eat your way to being heroic for the environment!
Here’s our list of 10 favourites: (With the Top 4 vying for eco-amazing-ness).
1.The Pig Hotel
With its traditional entrance hall, greenhouse dining room, bar, drawing room and fab’ library room, The Pig wouldn’t be out of place in a game of Cluedo.
So, if it’s outdoor dining with simple and delicious British garden food you’re after, then choose the Piggy Bits, and then, possibly, a Tomahawk Pork chop, with tobacco onions and garden rocket. We love the Lemon basil posset and shortbread for pud. Book early. It’s amazing.
2. The Gun Inn in Keyhaven.
It’s in our top 2 for the greenest place to eat in the New Forest.
They are proud of their 25 mile menu principle here, the young, local team have been given a free-rein to bring the best local suppliers to the table. The walking and views from the area are superb too – just in case you over ate…
One of the mainstays of local, seasonal and excellently-eco, is newly re-loved Gun Inn, Keyhaven. The food here is so good that we are now recommending it as a serious alternative to The Pig Hotel in Brockenhurst.
The pub is open Weds-Sunday only and offers a considered, local menu of food that has been sourced with extreme care. And before you ask, those with dietary requirements are well catered for and the children’s menu is excellent too. The Gun menu is well out in front locally, but also quite probably leads the way, in the whole county. The ethos and principles here are similar to (the famous) Pig Hotels with their 25 mile menu. The team here have proven that it’s possible for the humble local to offer the same, if not better, as a posh restaurant.
- 1. The Sandwich board has rippingly delicious fare for the starving and harried.
2. The Main Menu is full of variety from New Forest Wild Mushrooms to Tempura Plaice for starters to a classic Gun burger or fresh caper & butter Skate Wing. Plenty for vegans and gluten free folk too.
3. And for those who want to pre-order, savour the whole experience and share a plate, the best way to go is the Big Gun Menu. Here you’ll be able to fill your chops with, for example, a rack of local pork, a whole fore rib of beef – you get the picture. It’s not cheap, but it’s the best you can buy, done the best way.
3. For garden lovers in Beaulieu…
The restaurant gets most of it’s veg’ from the Beaulieu Palace gardens across the river. They are proud of their environmental creds and have done a huge amount of work on this in the hotel.
So if your idea of pure joy is being able to gaze upon a microcosm of a Gertrude Jekyll-style garden – complete with sculpted water feature – and eat like an (eco) hero, then you’ve come to the right place. The Terrace restaurant at The Montagu Arms in Beaulieu is charming. Food here is created by a Roux Scholar chef Matt Tomkinson. It is as you’d expect with that pedigree, perfect and particular. Not really suited to kids. Some of the ingredients come from the very garden you are sitting in. Start with fennel velouté with crispy mussels, samphire and dill oil, with honey roast free range chicken and broccoli puree for mains, and white chocolate and passionfruit cheesecake with crème fraiche sorbet to finish.
Read more about Beaulieu here.
4. For 5 star dining near the coast
We’ll have to send you west…a bit. There’s only one New Forest establishment that has this many stars. It’s the restaurant where James Martin was famously the pastry chef and an al fresco lunch at the Chewton Glen near New Milton is something you’ll remember for the rest of the year. However… what you may not know is that you can eat this lunch overlooking Chewton Glen’s delectable surroundings for under £30. Yes, really. Not ideal for children either but if you’re kids are pre-tamed then perhaps?
5. The Noisy Lobster Restaurant and Deli. Mudeford.
The young team here have done wonders and the seafood is particularly well sourced. The menu’s are simple, creative and service is good.
Ingredients are mostly local, with the rest coming from UK waters, or Hampshire’s fields. They take great pride in supporting local farmers and fisherfolk.
We were mighty impressed with their takeaway packaging – made from sugar cane and totally biodegradable in your compost, or use it again. It’s tough stuff! All charcuterie is grown in Hampshire and made locally with their new smoker and dryer. Stuart who is on the cheffing team was passionate and hugely well informed – he’d driven much of the changes. Even the flour for the bakery items had come from nearby Stokes Flour Mill in Dorset. There are about 50-60 local people employed through the business which rents beach huts too. Three are pasty chefs. Quite a team. Well done them!
6. Rhinefield House Hotel – Visit for High Tea
This grand ‘manorial’ house is quite a place. It’s surrounded by thick forest, some of the largest Redwood and fir trees in the south of England, excellent walking and cycling trails. Having been a hunting lodge, school and private house, it is now a sizeable hotel. The oldest part of the property is the back of the central fireplace, the rest of that building was removed in the 17th century for the ‘new building’ to be created. The gardens are Italianate, the interior of the main dining rooms haven’t changed much since they were built in the 17/18th century – and it feels like a luxury 18th century hunting lodge (plenty of wooden carving, an extraordinary Moorish dining room) with newer modern touches.
The High Tea itself is all made on site, using mostly local ingredients and delivered with some of the most professional customer service we’ve experienced in a long time. The menu felt like a lunch really, but delivered in the style of high tea, with an emphasis on the sweeter things. Champagne and drinks can be purchased by the glass or bottle. They allocate 2.5 hours to each sitting so there is no hurry – quite a relief really – because you’ll be busy digesting!
Children are welcome and only cost £10 each – proper value.
The team are delivering well against their sustainability goals with solid work on supporting local suppliers (25 miles), reducing waste, and responsible consumption. There is always more to do – (I was fantasising about the walled garden growing food for guests onsite) but it’s a good start.
Do walk in the gardens afterwards and take a walk in the nearby Ornamental Drive. The plantsmen who had the vision – 300 years ahead – to present times – stayed at the lodge as they planted what has become Rhinefield Ornamental Drive – and it shouldn’t be missed. The trees are spectacular in their full maturity.
We are still to research and test the following places for their commitment to sustainability…. We’re calling these places our ‘also ran’s’ at the moment…
6. For Modern Italian …
It has to be Hartnett & Holder at Lime Wood near Lyndhurst. Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder create locally sourced Italian dishes and during the warm weather you can eat them outside in the true Italian manner. Looking for a special place for a drink and a graze but worried about showers? Lime Wood’s Courtyard bar literally has that covered – they have a retractable roof! Feel overfull after? The walking from here is superb. Can’t get in here? Try Ciao Belli in Lymington – excellent. Or in Milford on Sea, Ray’s Italian is new in early 2019 and has a good following already.
6. For walkers and bikers near Brockenhurst.
If you’re enjoying our great outdoors, then Balmer Lawn’s Beresford Restaurant near Brockenhurst, is a great place to break off for lunch. They have three giant parasols to shelter you from the sun, heaters for when the cool wind blows and a menu of fresh food, sourced locally, to re-fuel on for the next part of your day. Or you could just spend the rest of the time with them, admiring the view of the ponies and the forest from their terrace. Hot feet? Take a splash just opposite in the shallow ford. It’s a splashy favourite for families.
7. For river views near Beaulieu.
Try the Yachtsman’s bar and garden at The Master Builder’s, Buckler’s Hard. Being so close to the water, you’ll want to eat some sumptuous seafood; maybe their spiced, potted crab, or beer battered haddock and chips, all washed down with clotted cream panna cotta, or, possibly, banana sticky toffee pudding. Service in peak times can be slow here. They get busy.
You can take a boat ride downriver and back from here, plus the Maritime museum is a lovely spot for a gander at the local naval history.
8. For a marine feel in Lymington.
We love the cafe and restaurant The Haven, located in the heart of Lymington’s Yacht Haven marina. The food is good, the service smiley and the views are fantastic. If the weather is a bit average then eat inside the main restaurant. It has huge wrap around glass windows which overlook the marina, boat wash and out to the Solent. The deck here gets busy in summer and is full of energy and boaty chat.
Walk from here along the coastal paths for a post-lunch potter.
9. For a field and beach walk to Tanners Lane
One of a firm favourites is the East End Arms, located near to many of our houses, is the perfect distance to walk to the beach or across the fields and forest. It is your quintessential pub with a beautiful outside seating area, half of which is covered by a Morrocan style gazebo. The indoor dining space is lovely too with lots of atmosphere. They are reopening their kitchen in March 2022 so we are excited to see what the new menu holds… watch this space for our review on the food!
10. For a knockout view and some beautifully presented local food …
Head to Pebble Beach restaurant in Barton on Sea, this place is just a treat. They use locally landed fish and seafood alongside seasonal local ingredients. They focus on a mix of French and English styles and Head Chef, Karl Wiggins is well regarded in the region. Eat outside with a fab view of the pointy-outy bits of Dorset and the Isle of Wight. Be sure to book.
11. Loved by our staff and many locals, The Mill at Gordleton.
This big gastro pub is close to Slate Cottage. It’s not the best environmentally, mainly because it’s so big and they can’t buy from small local suppliers, (Rachel, our Founder did her research and asked). But, it is mainly British food and has a good reputation. The style is smart, chic, and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. It’s a great spot for a big birthday celebration and we don’t hesitate to recommend that people come her.