The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu
A historic building, New Forest wildlife AND mega foodie prestige - The Montagu Arms in Beaulieu has it all... plus much, much more.
When people envision a New Forest retreat, I’m pretty sure The Montagu Arms would come to mind. Located in the pretty little village of Beaulieu, there’s been an inn on this site since the 16th-Century.
The hotel has hosted many famous visitors including – but not limited to – Arthur Conan Doyle, Buffalo Bill, General Charles de Gaulle and Henry Irving.
Roll forward to 2019 and it’s now home to a 24-bedroom country house hotel, complete with its own restaurant, The Terrace, glorious gardens and more than a few adorable donkeys and horses tootling around outside.
Known for being one of the best hotels in Hampshire, The Montagu Arms recently scooped a double award win at the 2019 AA Hospitality Awards. Four AA Red Stars for the hotel itself and three AA Red Stars for the Terrace Restaurant. Visitors flock here for the quiet serenity of the New Forest, with an absolutely stellar gourmet offering in the mix.
Meandering around the country roads near Beaulieu, you feel a little bit like you’ve stepped back in time with thatched cottages and historic sights around every bend.
Arriving at the hotel you can tell its something a bit special from the off, with its entrance that somehow manages to be both grand AND demure all at once.
Fun fact, the dog statues have sat here for around a century and a quick snoop around the hotel’s historic wall hangings will show you photos of when they were mere pups.
The interior is full of dark wood panelling, wooden beams and antiques – all of which channels that old English homestead vibe.
The staff were all incredibly attentive and, despite the horrendous torrential rain outside when we arrived, the whole place felt snuggly, full of the scent of a roaring log fire – perfect for escaping the ‘real world’ for a few days.
The hotel comprises of 24 rooms ranging from standard up to suites. The decor in our room initially seemed quite simple, but on closer inspection, you could tell the high level of attention to detail that had gone into. it.
The place oozes ‘country house chic’, with its earthy colours, natural materials and a deeply calming vibe. And while the room itself wasn’t huge, rather than this being a negative this only added to the cosy bolthole feel.
There were homemade biscuits waiting for us (sadly, my husband had those away before I got a look in. *sob*) and a hand-carved bed – made right in the Forest itself.
Through to the bathroom I was chuffed to see it stocked with fluffy white robes, slippers and some rather lovely smellies from The White Company – it felt quite modern with its marble interior in comparison to the rest of the hotel.
Our room was by the main road which, during the day, seemed a little noisy but as the evening drew in the traffic ceased and was incredibly quiet and peaceful. There was also a drove of donkeys outside, hanging around outside in the rain – you can’t get more New Forest than that!
SCOFF & QUAFF
Be still my foodie beating heart! The Terrace has won countless awards for its food and, with new Head Chef Matthew Whitfield (who previously worked at three-Michelin-Star Eleven Madison Park in New York), I can see a helluva lot more coming its way.
They like a bit of sustainability here, and the hotel has its own Kitchen Garden and a flock of chickens, so a large percentage of the produce comes from the hotel itself.
We took advantage of the Tasting Menu (£90pp without drinks) which came with no less than eight courses and made me glad I packed my stretchiest of trousers.
The meal started while we sipped some drinks in the lounge (Winchester Distillery Twisted Nose Gin and tonic for me), with three amuse bouche that included what I can only describe as a ‘beef doughnut’, topped with green tomato puree, a savoury cheese meringue and a tiny tarlet of cauliflower puree. Each one was absolutely delicious and made me extremely excited for the meal ahead.
Next, when we were sat at our table, we were presented with a rosemary and sea salt sourdough and another amuse Bouche of a mini fish pie, topped with a creamy decadent butter sauce. Bouches out of the way, the dishes came thick, fast from that point.
The menu included a roasted fillet of gurnard with baked Heritage carrots, basil and lemongrass; roasted fillet of hake with smoked bacon, pickled mushroom, beetroot and red wine sauce; honey-glazed Creedy Carver Duck breast, Szechuan pepper, butternut squash, chanterelles and a ‘Choux Farci’; cheeseboard which included choices such as Stinking Bishop, Golden Cross goats’ cheese and Lancashire Bomb Cheese with homemade quince jelly; Kaffir life leaf sorbet with spiced pineapple and coriander and finished off with Terrace Chocolate Bar with Milk Sorbet and Coffee.
The food here is incredible – in fact, some of the best I’ve ever had. Traditional English flavours were paired with some exotic surprises, each one matching perfectly on the palate and presented beautifully.
There were so many highlights but my particular favourites were the bacon that accompanied with the hake that I can only describe as tasting like an autumnal log fire and the duck breast that simply melted in the mouth.
There’s also the option to pair your courses with carefully chosen wines for an additional £75 per person or with a fine wine selection for an extra £95 per person. Alternatively, you can choose from the extensive (and boy do I mean extensive!) wine list, which also includes over 40 organic and 27 biodynamic wines. Bottles start from around the £30 mark right up to the triple figures.
OUT & ABOUT
The New Forest is prime tourist territory, with attractions such as Buckler’s Hard and Beaulieu just around the corner from the hotel. There’s also plenty of walking trails for all seasons and weathers – ideal for a soppy hand-in-hand stroll with your beau.
However, the village of Beaulieu is worth exploring on its own with gorgeous little boutique shops such as Norris Gifts & Furnishing, Beaulieu Chocolate Studio, Fairweather’s Garden Centre and the office of New Forest Activities mere steps from the front of the hotel.
If you want to get out and about in style, definitely give New Forest Classic Car Hire a call. They have a range of beautiful retro vehicles to whizz around the Forest in and they also do a gorgeous picnic hamper for sunnier days as well.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: You and your foodie soulmate. This is a ridiculously romantic little hideaway with some of the best cuisine in Hampshire. It’s perfect for an anniversary, special birthday or all-out treat ‘just because’.
NOT FOR: Leave the kids at home for this one. The Terrace only serves ages 12 and above, and the quiet, intimate atmosphere is probably not conducive to keeping children quiet.
THE DAMAGE: Reassuringly expensive, but not eye-watering so. A standard room starts at £219 a night, with the suites edging around the £369 a night mark. Guests also have access to the gym and spa facilities at the SenSpa at Careys Manor in Brockenhurst. The Tasting Menu at the Terrace without wine is £90pp, but you would pay several times this amount for similar quality in London. The staff are also excellent, personable and incredibly knowledgeable – well worth the money.
The Montagu Arms Hotel, Palace Ln, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst SO42 7ZL. Tel: 01590 624467