Stag Restaurant at New Park Manor

Relaxed fine dining in Charles II's former living room - who'd have thought it?

Where? New Park Manor Hotel, Spa and Equestrian Centre, New Park Manor, Lyndhurst Road, New Forest, SO42 7QH (01590 623467)

Venison all round? Not quite, although with most of the meat sourced locally, game and venison certainly play a part on seasonal menus. Mind you, there’s plenty to choose from for every taste bud, including vegetarians, all with a modern British slant.

Sounds posh? No! That’s the best thing about this place. You’re eating in the same room Charles II once used, there’s a royal coat of arms on the wall, horses in the distance, and squirrels and rabbits in the garden, and yet the atmosphere is as relaxed as it comes – you can even wear jeans if you like (although we reckon half the fun of eating in places like this is choosing the dress and shoes first).

So if we don’t fancy Bambi, what else is on the menu? We enjoyed tomato and wild garlic risotto to start with, alongside chicken and mushroom terrine with plum chutney, followed by a fabulous seared salmon steak. For dessert, once we’d worked out exactly what Champagne crème chiboust was (a sort of chilled jelly-cum-mousse), it slipped down a treat (there’s also a delicious range of ice creams available for the less adventurous).

And to wash all the down with? This must be the only hotel restaurant in the country which actually offers you tap water as an option and delivers it with a slice of orange in the jug rather than lemon or lime (try it, it’s my new favourite way to drink water). The wine list is just as welcoming. Alongside monthly specials (from Down Under when we were there), there’s a whole range of house wines, half bottles and more expensive options (including reds up to £330 from the New Park private cellar). Wine by the glass is also served in three different measures, ensuring this menu caters for literally every palette and tolerance level!

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