My visit to The Montagu Arms could almost be summed up in one sentence – it made me feel like royalty. Maybe not quite a king, but certainly something lower down like a duke or a baron or something else that sounds pretty powerful and cool.
Set in the idyllic location of Beaulieu in The New Forest, The Montagu Arms has been a welcome sight to travellers since the 16th Century – so they must be doing something right! There have obviously been a number of extensions and refurbs along the way, but the old world charm is still present in every inch of the venue. Its modest grounds include an immaculate and beautiful English garden in which to enjoy summer and even a croquet lawn where one can knock a few balls around and pretend to be aristocracy. In all fairness, I don’t think anyone born after 1742 knows how to play the game anyway so my version of ‘hit the ball really hard through the hoops’ looked pretty good to on looking guests!
Head inside and the hotel maintains its quintessential English look and feel. Oak panelling dominates everywhere, as do an abundance of big lazy couches to place ones royally sized rump. Comfort is clearly a big thing for this venue then. The 22 individually decorated bedrooms are equally inviting and cosy. We had a mid-priced junior suite which was absolutely massive and featured a most seductive of four poster beds. To further enhance the feeling of grandeur, this particular room had a view of the magnificent Beaulieu Palace House.
An added bonus for those staying here is the free spa pass at their nearby sister hotel, Careys Manor. We dropped by and it certainly looked like it could take away the stresses and strains of city life. A package of a room, dinner & breakfast starts at £260 and they they’ve also got plenty of great offers to tempt further so it’s well worth taking a look at their website.
From afternoon tea in the garden, an informal bite in the pub-style Monty’s or a full on fine dining experience in The Terrace, there is a good choice for foodies here. Having arrived on a hot summer’s day following a long cycling session through the Forest, afternoon tea in the garden was just what the doctor ordered. Perfect freshly baked scones, rich clotted cream and a delicious pot of local jam was as good as it gets and sensibly priced at £7.50/head.
Dinner was in the Michelin starred Terrace restaurant. The elegant dining room overlooks the garden and provides a wonderfully relaxed environment in which to enjoy Head Chef Matthew Tomkinson’s food. The menu marries fresh local produce with innovative ideas to provide interesting yet accessible options. Sea trout wrapped in Parma ham with peas, broad beans & baby gem lettuce was sublimely cooked and full of vibrant flavours, whilst Miss Pancake’s Pan fried scallops with pork belly was perfectly accompanied by peanuts, peashoots and a zingy apple & radish salad.
Mains continued to impress. Butter poached Brixham lemon sole with sauté spinach, wild asparagus, smoked salmon & mussel risotto was sweet, salty and savoury all at the same time and full of different textures; possibly one of the most perfect seafood dishes ever. Not far behind was my Roast rump of veal with garlic and lentils which melted onto my fork and was full of deep, earthy flavours. The desserts were also the real deal. Forget your dainty swirls of sauce and bite sized cakes – these were proper puds designed to be eaten. The Dark chocolate delice was a rich chunk of chocolate full of lovely pieces of salted caramel which made Miss Pancake produce noises that are probably illegal in these conservative parts of England. My equally delicious Banana soufflé with butterscotch sauce & honeycomb was feather light with a wonderful savoury & sweet contrast.
We were recommended a superb Harewood Estate Chardonnay to go with our meal from the extensive and well priced wine list. Our bottle was £35 and there were also plenty of wines by the glass for under £6. And talking of value, portion sizes were pleasantly generous and not something one would expect in a Michelin Starred restaurant.
Dinner for 2 (excluding drinks): £80
The Montagu Arms Hotel
Tel: 01590 612324