Fresh organic produce, sourced locally, peppers the menu in the Dining Room restaurant at the Lime Wood country house hotel, writes Janet Harmer
The menu at the Dining Room is inspired by the freshness and variety of the produce grown near by. The restaurant is the fine dining option at Lime Wood, the five-AA-star country house hotel launched by Robin Hutson in the New Forest two years ago.
Key is the connection with Sunnyfields, an organic farm, 10 minutes away, which grows produce according to the wishes of head chef, Luke Holder, who joined the property from the Lakeside Hotel & Spa in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
"When I arrived at the hotel in January 2010, a lot of the fruit and vegetables were being brought in from Rungis in Paris," he said.
Holder wanted food sourced locally and as a result most of the vegetables are now picked at Sunnyfields early in the morning on the day on which they are served. "Everything is now far fresher and inspires us to write a menu which changes every three or four days, depending on what we receive."
The central meat or fish ingredient may remain the same, but the garnishes change frequently.
There is one dish, though, that remains constant - Holder's signature starter of ravioli filled with creamy polenta combined with four year-aged parmesan, butter and olive oil, served with violet artichoke, sun dried tomatoes and Dorset truffles.
"This is inspired from a traditional dish I came across when working in the three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Enoteca Pinchiorri, in Florence," he says. "I love the combination of the simple polenta with the richness of the truffles."
Game is sourced from the nearby Newhouse Game Estate and currently features heavily on the menu, as in the starter of pigeon breast served with figs (roasted and pureed, as well as poached) and foie gras cured in coffee, or the main course of venison with quince, candy beetroot, dandelion and elderberry.
One of the biggest attractions amongst the main courses is the sharing dish, which is centered around a specific joint of meat, served several ways.
For instance, Holder may offer piglet for two, incorporating the boned-out roasted leg, shoulder or saddle which is served at the table with some gnocchi and black cabbage, celery and bacon, followed by the pigs' trotters, combined with smoked foie gras, on toast, and accompanied by a salad of roasted and pickled girolles.
Lamb is also served this way. A leg is slowly roasted for 24 hours, before being finished off with a lamb glaze, rock salt and thyme. It is carved at the table alongside a copper dish of shepherd's pie made from minced lamb combined with the tongue, offal and sweetbreads, and served with roasted onions and turnips.
The popularity of the sharing dishes has recently encouraged Holder to introduce a tarte tatin, with crème anglaise, to the dessert menu for two. "Customers like the no-nonsense nature of these dishes and the theatre they bring to the table," says Holder.
Three courses on the a la carte menu in the Dining Room costs £55, with additional seasonal vegetables charged at £4.50. At lunch, three courses are available for £23.50 (£21.50 for two courses), while the tasting menu is £70 for eight courses.
The recent decision to chuck out the carpet in the Dining Room has created whole new ambience, which has helped inject a new informal vibe - totally in keeping with the laid-back luxury Hutson intended to offer from the outset at the hotel.
"It is incredible what a difference a wooden floor has made to the restaurant," said Holder.
As well as looking after the 70-seat Dining Room, he is responsible with a team of 20 chefs for the 40-seat Scullery, the Raw and Cured food bar in the Herb House spa, and the service of up to 60 afternoon teas at the hotel.
Sample dishes from the menu
(£55 for 3 courses)
Red mullet, grilled with parsley and chervil roots, seafood vinaigrette
Newhouse Game Estate pigeon breast, figs and coffee cured foie gras
Loch Duart salmon, lightly smoked, orange and horseradish
Hake, roasted Cornish fillet, artichoke and pickled mushrooms
Richard Vaughan's Middle White pork, New Forest damsons, langoustine, smoked eel
Mr Hodgson's Isle of Wight beef, penny buns, Dorset snails, organic parsnips
Coffee marshmallow, fig beignet, white coffee ice cream
Cardamom and dark chocolate layers, Herb House lawn chamomile
Loosehanger farm goats' curd parfait, blueberry and basil
The Dining Room at Lime Wood Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7FZ
Tel: 023 8028 7177