The New Forest, Hampshire

The Saltern, Lymington

June 2021

Last week, I was visiting family and friends in and around the New Forest. Having grown up in the area and visited regularly over the years, the lack of good restaurants in this region has always puzzled me. Being generally an affluent area (Sandbanks, the home of celebrities and multi-millionaires is just down the road) you would think that the market was ripe for restauranteurs, but up until now, this hasn’t been the case. Fortunately, things appear to be looking up. The Pig (review below) which was in fact founded some years ago, has perhaps been the catalyst for this change. Whilst just recently The Elderflower, a fine dining restaurant in Lymington, received the recognition it deserved and was featured on an episode of the BBC’s ‘Remarkable Places to Eat’; although, the downside of this review is that it is now impossible to get a reservation – I have managed to get one for next year! This of course proves that there is a demand for good restaurants yet not enough supply. So on my recent visit, I was excited to be trying a couple of new gastropubs which have created a buzz on the local grapevine. The review for the first place I tried was hindered by my aforementioned excitement which was exacerbated by the fact that I was meeting up with friends who I hadn’t seen in a very long time, and so I forgot to take any photos, which rather hinders a good review! Therefore, although my experience at the Gun Inn, Lymington was very positive and a place I would recommend, my review will have to wait until I can revisit with my camera. I learnt from this mistake, and the following day when I had lunch at The Saltern, I was armed and ready for photos…

The Saltern’s owners, Joe and Henry, met at school in Lymington. Their passion for food and the hospitality industry took them away for some years, but after experiencing both sides of the industry – Joe is the chef and Henry is front of house – they decided to return home and open The Saltern. It is still early days, and on entering the restaurant I found the interior rather ‘fresh’ and still a little ‘empty’. Indeed they will be the first to admit that it is a ‘work in progress’; they have ambitious plans for The Saltern which include a landscaped garden with a live-fire kitchen and an edible garden for growing produce. But of course, right now it’s the food that is the most important thing and this was the main reason for my visit…

The menu of sharing plates is seasonally inspired, and on the day we visited it was difficult not to over order as everything seemed delicious on the refreshingly simple menu. In the end, we decided to start with ‘Bloody Mary Oysters’, which although we couldn’t taste the ‘Bloody Mary’ element, were wonderfully fresh – a real treat. We then enjoyed the ‘Wild Bass Crudo & Cherry’, which, again, was beautifully fresh; the seasonal cherries were the perfect complement. For our shared ‘main event’ we chose ‘Salmon & Gooseberry’ and ‘Porchetta & Gravy’, these were both delicious. The Salmon was cooked perfectly whilst the bittersweet gooseberry purée was a recipe that I’d like at home. The porchetta was also a dream; melt in your mouth good with just the right amount of crackling. On the side we ordered the ‘Ratte Potatoes & Smoked Butter’, I would have been happy to eat the whole plate of these by myself! We also chose ‘Mangteout & Mint’, I must admit that we almost didn’t order these as I think that mangetout is a rather overrated vegetable, but these were possibly the best mangetout I have tasted, they were slightly chargrilled, which gave a smoky flavour that was great with the mint. Finally, desserts, ‘Raspberry Frangipani & Cream’, a great tart which was eaten very quickly! We also shared scoops of ‘Lemon Verbena Ice- cream’ – creamy and fresh – and ‘Cherry Sorbet’, plus ‘Chocolate Ganache & Strawberry’ – very moreish!

The Saltern is, without doubt, the new restaurant that Lymington (and the surrounding area) has been crying out for. I must admit that living in London I am rather spoilt by the choice of good restaurants, however, I felt a little envious that The Saltern was a ‘stone’s throw’ from my friend’s house!

The Pig, Brockenhurst

September 2020

I celebrated another friend’s big ‘5’ ‘0’ last weekend(!), we marked the occasion with a day out in the New Forest. My friend now lives in the area, so her London friends, myself included, took the train down to have a celebratory lunch at the Pig, Brockenhurst.

The Pig, Brockenhurst, describes itself as a restaurant with rooms, and since opening in 2011 it has opened other similar ‘Pig’ establishments in the south of England. Their ‘simple and honest’ philosophy is to serve food using only produce that they can grow in their own kitchen garden or source within 25 miles of the restaurant.

The train from London to Brockenhurst is direct, just under two hours. From there the Pig is a fifteen minute taxi drive, so it is a very ‘do-able’ day trip from the city. Fortunately, my friend could drive the five of us around (masked up!), so first of all, to whet our appetites and loosen our limbs after our train ride, we drove over to the nearby coastline to have a short, bracing beach walk before our lunch.

After that, we most definitely deserved a cocktail, so on arrival at the Georgian country house which is now home to the Pig, we took our aperitifs on their front lawn, enjoying the last of the summer sun. The grounds are lovely and include their impressive kitchen garden, I didn’t get the chance to see it on this occasion, but have seen it on a previous visit!

The restaurant itself, the Greenhouse Restaurant, so called for its shabby chic, conservatory setting, is in the heart of the house. It serves ‘British kitchen garden food’ focused on simple and fresh flavours, the ambiance is relaxed, and in my opinion, particularly suited to small groups of families and friends. To start our lunch, we all opted for the Pickled Mackerel salad, it was a good choice with fresh flavours. Moving on to our main course we enjoyed the Lamb Barnsley Chop with Chargrilled Courgette, which was served with a rich and  flavoursome gravy, very British and very tasty – if I am absolutely honest I would have preferred it cooked a little more pink, however it was still delicious. Finally, for dessert, Baked Plums with Ewes Milk Curd – sweet and salty, it was a good end to a very satisfying lunch which had uncomplicated, fresh and honest flavours.

So, I am pleased to give you another recommendation- if you fancy a day out in the New Forest, The Pig, Brockenhurst would be a good spot for lunch with the possibility of walk in the woods nearby, alternatively you could choose to have a weekend break and stay overnight in one of their rooms!…