Smart meets relaxed and foodie mixes with family at Chewton Glen’s new place – all under the careful direction of James Martin. Emma Caulton tucks in…
Here we are at the gates to Chewton Glen – the tree-lined drive curving and dipping away to what was one of the first and is still considered one of the very best luxury country house hotels in the UK.
But, hello, just inside the entrance on the left is a new barn-cum-greenhouse style building, all weatherboarding and glass in a potager of a garden. This is The Kitchen – the hotel’s very latest addition, termed “the new place to eat, meet, create and cook” as it combines eatery with bakery and cookery school. It has the swank of Chewton Glen itself, although it is perhaps more nuanced. And it is more accessible, literally, than The Dining Room, in the heart of the hotel itself. It is also more informal with a contemporary menu designed by James Martin and Head Chef Adam Hart that focuses on family-friendly grills, super salads, burgers and pizzas. The intention is to provide a relaxed eating place for both locals and hotel guests.
As we approach across the parkland setting, The Kitchen glows invitingly on an early summer evening. Glazed doors open onto a cosy sitting area where a woodburning stove has just been lit. It is welcoming, but not strictly necessary at this time of year. The restaurant is heavy on the warm woods, with high oak roof timbers, low lighting, copper table tops and deep leather banquettes. There’s a mash-up of rustic and industrial including exposed ducts and quirky farmyard animal motifs. A nice touch are the pots of herbs (ours is oregano) which decorate each table. From where we’re sitting we also have a good view across to the totally open kitchen where home-grown talent Adam can be seen, admirably cool, calm and in control, at the pass. The young enthusiastic team back and front of house includes efficient, delightful service from waiting staff in stylish The Kitchen aprons.
Starters are a collection of small dishes for sharing, brought to the table as they’re prepared. It’s a sticky fingers sort of experience as we pick our way through steaming balls of soft wild garlic croquettes the colour of vivid green woodland, homemade nutty bread topped with melting crumbled Dorset Blue Vinny (packing a powerful punch), and sweet Cornish mussels – a rich, colourful dish with spicy Laverstoke Park chorizo, roasted cherry tomatoes and parsley. I ask for a spoon to do justice to that piquant, yellow sauce pooling in the bottom of the bowl.
Mains are familiar favourites given exciting flavour twists. We order Thai crab risotto, a big, soft, golden bowlful with a smoky undertone and a bold kick of chilli, and wood-fired sea bass stuffed with slices of lime, presented perfectly moist and with a crisp skin on a wooden board, accompanied by a dish of fragrant watercress salsa verde.
Desserts are James Martin’s Puddings. The indulgent selection includes doughnuts, chocolate tart and sticky toffee pudding. But we share a creamy Black Cow Vodka panna cotta with just enough wobble; the creaminess cut through by poached rhubarb and granules of crumble for texture.
My chap chills with a crisp, sparkling bottle of Dorset Draft from the Purbeck Cider Company. I treat myself to a tipple of Pothecary Gin, handcrafted and headily scented like a herb garden and served with Fevertree tonic. Otherwise, there’s a clever, considered and easy to follow wine list.
Brilliant. Relaxed yet top notch dining with flavoursome food at good prices.
Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, New Forest,
Hampshire, BH25 6QS