The Bell Inn - one of the New Forest's finest
The Bell Inn situated in Brook in the New Forest National Park is an 18th century coaching inn has an enviable position surrounded by natures finest. This historic hotel has been in the same family since 1782 and recently undergone some stylish updates. Having never been to The Bell Inn before I wasn't quite sure what to expect, from the pub and restaurant but the renovations have been carefully thought out it still retains that country vibe with comfy chairs in front of a fireplace and antlers hanging on the wall but with a really modern twist.
Although in fact I having driven past The Bell Inn on numerous occasions over the last twenty years I honestly thought it was part of the golf course so when I was asked to review it for the Dorset Foodie Family I was a little surprised, and I can happily say this isn't just for the golfers! The management and front of house team really go out of their way to make you feel welcome and at home.
Having such a strong connection with the New Forest the recently appointed chef, Mark Young supports the community by buying meat, fruit and vegetables locally and the fish is sourced from the coast nearby too. Mark is keen to adapt his menu to incorporate these local suppliers and has in fact added a farm to fork map to the back of the menu so guests can see exactly where the food is coming from.
This made an interesting talking point during our meal because even living in the area we had not come across some of these suppliers and as the 15milefoodie, I love the idea of supporting local businesses wherever possible.
Take a look at this for a starter a perfectly balanced Fluffet's farm duck egg on top of a pulled pork hash and then drizzled with a aged balsamic. There is something about a bright yellow fried egg that gets me excited, probably the anticipation of the yolk spilling out (odd I know).
The other starter was equally as delicious and so pretty too. Smoked haddock croquettes mango and just the right amount of chilli to give it a little kick.
The main courses that followed were again beautifully presented mine being Hampshire lamb slow cooked shoulder, crispy belly, and roast loin accompanied by dauphinois potato, summer vegetables, mint jus. The combination of the different textures on the lamb was absolutely brilliant and I told the chef that when we chatted afterwards. Interesting to note that if you choose this dish £1 donation will be given to the New Forest Trust which again show the importance and passion the owners have for the a area.
I find it hard to tear my husband away from steak on any menu and that was his choice again today. It was a 10z prime Hampshire steak served with hand cut chips, watercress, grilled tomato and a creamy peppercorn sauce. Apparently it was beautifully cooked and very soon became history on the plate.
Photos of our desserts follow below and show the level of detail put into every dish. I absolutely loved the little pannacotta served in a milk churn it was beautifully light and wobbled on the spoon on the way to your mouth. The little trio of lemon based desserts consisted of lemon drizzle cake, posset and a sorbet made with a local (Conker) gin always going to be a hit with me.
Aside from the fantastic food The Bell Inn is perfectly positioned for a stay in the New Forest having 28 rooms with five different categories to choose from and they even accommodates dogs in some of the ground floor rooms. It is a place loved by fishermen, walkers, photographers and if golf is your thing The Bell also owns two golf courses situated right by the hotel one of them being the oldest course in Hampshire dating right back to the late 1800's.
I enjoyed our visit so much I took my family back there on the following Sunday to celebrate my dad's birthday. My brother has a young baby and it was great to see how accommodating and family friendly they are - another big plus in my book.
Several events are advertised in-house including a garden party on Bank Holiday Monday so be sure to check their website to see what's happening you won't be disappointed!
The Bell Inn
Telephone 02380 812214