Montagu Arms - A truly fine dining experience
Having visited the The Terrace Restaurant at The Montagu Arms on Thursday I can honestly say it was my first dining experience. Yes, I eat out a lot but this was not just a dinner in a fancy restaurant, it was quality that I had not experienced before.
We had picked a wonderful mid-week evening to dine there and the drive was made all the more magical with the large harvest moon lighting our way with some amazing views across the New Forest National Park.
The hotel is a grade II listed building set in the beautiful village of Beaulieu, both the exterior and interior of the Montagu Arms Hotel offer quintessential English charm and timeless sophistication. Elegant original features including oak flooring, panelling and old brick fireplaces throughout the country house hotel providing an opulent and comfortable atmosphere - the perfect setting for romantic retreats, lavish weddings, weekend breaks or corporate events.
We parked in the rear hotel car park and walked through the well lit and beautifully manicured gardens to the entrance. There is something quite mystical in these fine old buildings but it is the attention to detail at every turn that makes this hotel feel special, just take the time to soak it all in.
Being a guest at the Hampshire Food and Drink Awards for the last few years I had seen this hotel receiving numerous awards and knew to expect something special, as their reputation is renowned.
We were warmly greeted by the team and made to feel comfortable with a glass of Tattinger and the array of menus, wine list and a light amuse bouche, this really is a lovely way to settle into dinner, being given the chance to sit, relax and ponder the evening ahead. Whilst I accept that most venues don't have the room for such luxuries, the rush to your table and to choose your order can be off putting to say the least. The Terrace really has this down to a fine art.
Head chef and Roux Scholar, Matthew Tomkinson has devised several menus for its guests to choose from and my husband and I chose the Surprise Tasting Menu. This menu has been devised to take full advantage of quality local produce found within and around the New Forest. Ingredients include vegetables and herbs from the kitchen garden, fish from the South Coast and game and pork sourced from the National Park.
The other interesting thing about the surprise menu is that no two tables receive the same dishes it is completely tailored to you.
I was particularly impressed with the dishes served at The Terrace as I have a dairy intolerance and normally, if I mention this at a restaurant the food can leave me feeling like I have lost out on the experience and my food can be a little bland.
This certainly wasn't the case here, although my food was altered to accommodate my dietary requirements they were not lacking in flavour, in my opinion that is down to a knowledgable and understanding chef.
All the dishes were beautifully presented.
Beautiful spiced scallops served with a cauliflower puree and apple veloute.
This next dish of Monkfish in my husbands words "changed his world". The combination of flavours was absolutely divine. Each course truly complimented the next and were always visually stunning and spectacular on the taste buds.
The full front of house team also need to be recognised, as the art of a fine dining isn't limited to the food, it's a mix of the whole experience. The team were first class, and adjusted their interaction with each table to suit that table's requirements, happy to chat at one table and understanding the need for a more formal approach on the next.
To compliment the surprise menu we also chose the fine wine selection, a glass of wine with each course tailored to the specific dish, with each dish presented, described poured and enthused by the Head Sommelier, Sergio Dos Santos, whose knowledge and skill in describing each wine, in a way we could understand and appreciate was an experience in itself. Photos of the wine we tasted are below with the exception of a really stunning English (Hampshire) sparkling white wine from Jenkyn Place, worth trying if you see it on a wine list.
It was a fantastic evening delivered by an exceptional team it certainly surpassed my expectations and I can't wait to return, I can only imagine that combining this beautiful dinner service with an overnight stay within the hotel would leave you totally relaxed and refreshed. In fact I couldn't help but notice the new barn conversion in the gardens is nearing completion so maybe!!
I look forward to seeing some of the team again at this years Hampshire Life Awards where the Restaurant is nominated for Restaurant of the Year and Matthew Tomkinson is nominated for Chef of the Year if tonight's experience is anything to go by all the accolades this team achieve are well deserved.
Exterior daytime photographs kindly provided by Polymedia.