“Stylish gastro bolthole surrounded by the trees, ponies and beauty of the New Forest, less than 2 hours from London”
The rooms at TerraVina may not be the main draw, but they're smart and stylish and more than capable of delivering a sound night's sleep after your evening feast. They're similarly kitted out in cosy fabrics and calming colour schemes of red, beige and cream, with beautifully tiled, luxurious bathrooms and specially commissioned photographs of the New Forest on the walls. Impressively, all rooms are repainted and freshened up every couple of months; the sort of attention to detail that makes this place so special.
Space and position varies. 3 rooms are on the ground floor with patio gardens; 8 are on the first floor, half of them boasting spacious roof terraces with loungers and table and chairs. As at HDV, they're named after different types of wine, though you would need to be a bit of a wine buff to recognize some of them.
When we first visited, we stayed in the light and spacious, first floor Vin Doux Naturel - a lair for lovers, with a roll-top bath in the room to enjoy the lovely smellies (handmade by Hampshire-based Long Barn, using locally grown lavender). An enormous terrace overlooked the lawn and swimming pool; being south-facing, it was sun soaked until late in the day. We slept well and loved the Nespresso machine (and fresh milk), meaning delicious coffee first thing in the morning without having to leave the room.
When we re-visited in 2011, we stayed in the wheelchair-friendly, ground-floor Eszencia. Although pretty, with a burnt-orange scheme and a little private patio, we felt this room was a bit dark compared with the upstairs ones, and it got rather noisy in the evening as it's right on a staff corridor by a swing door that swooshed every time it opened; not ideal. However, in terms of comfort, we were extremely well off. The bathroom was huge, beds had fab Vi-Spring mattresses, duvets were cosy, and we loved the towelling robes and massive bathroom with its roll-top tub.
In our opinion, the best rooms are as follows: Vin Santo, on the first floor facing the forest, with a cranberry purple colour scheme and large roof terrace; Canteiro, a gorgeously light and spacious room, with large picture windows and a sofa area; Vin Doux Naturel as above, and Ausbruch with its enormous roof terrace.
A good choice for families would be the ground floor Solera, with a small private patio and space for 2 extra beds, though there is space in nearly all the rooms for an extra bed, and a baby cot fits in them all.
And a tip for those on a budget: Selection de Grains Nobles may be rather small, but there's a surprise treat in store if you book it! Eiswein is also very nice, if bijou - and it has a lovely bathroom with a roll-top bath and separate shower.
We had high expectations for the restaurant, which has a great reputation among locals, a bustling open kitchen, lively atmosphere and an outdoor terrace overlooking the lawn for alfresco dining. And we weren't disappointed one bit.
Our dinner - gazpacho and black olive tapenade followed by free-range chicken with fig on potato rosti - was outstanding. Portions are good-sized and impeccably presented, and the chef tries to locally source as much produce as possible. There's a full dessert menu, including such delights as creme brulee with Earl Grey tea cream, but we could only manage a tiny cup of delicious bay leaf ice cream.
When we revisited in 2011, things had gone up a fancy notch, and we were even more impressed. Our starters of cucumber and crab cannelloni with beetroot and lime gel, and quail with baby turnips, were beautifully presented and tasted sublime. After much deliberation over our mains, we were thrilled with our wild halibut with curried mussels, and lamb shank with smoked potato and burnt aubergine morels. As for the desserts, the pineapple gel and crisp with pepper marshmallows was sweet, inventive and delicious.
As you would expect, there's a lengthy wine list, helpfully split into categories such as "steely and mineral" and "smooth and nutty" for whites; and "lively and fruity" and "intense and powerful" for reds. Gerard's much lauded and uber-expensive enomatic machines enable him to keep open bottles completely fresh, so you can try a vast range by the glass. Bottles range from standard restaurant prices to triple figures. Best of all, the sommeliers give honest, non-upselling advice about which wines will best accompany your chosen dishes. We were delighted with our recommendations, from the aptly paired aperitifs to the sweet 'sticky' (Australian dessert wine). In short, if you are passionate about food and wine, then you'll love it here.
Breakfast was very good: a small buffet accompanied by a hot menu which includes smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and a New Forest Full English. In fine weather, you can eat (breakfast, lunch or dinner) in the garden or on the terrace, and Sunday lunches here are renowned.
As the restaurant is popular and often full at weekends, a booking will automatically be made for you for your first night at the hotel - after which they're confident you'll want to book for any remaining nights! But if you want to eat elsewhere, there are several good restaurants in Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst and Lymington, as well as plenty of pubs for a beer garden lunch.
Since our visit, The Fine Dining Restaurant has been added to the operation. Here guests can dine on a 12-course tasting menu extravaganza. Example dishes include: goose, celeriac and pear, and brambleberries, ewe's yoghurt and sheep's sorrel.
Children are very welcome at the hotel, and this is a great place to come if you have a little one, and fancy an indulgent meal in a good restaurant. Meals are charged according to portion size, etc at the manager's discretion.
We used our baby monitor in the restaurant, but the duty manager also offered to keep it at reception. Cots and high chairs are provided, as are little gifts of a teddy and rubber duckie. Nina and Gerard's own young son can often be found at the pool or in the garden at the weekends, and he loves to make friends with other children, no matter how small. The garden is just about large enough for older children to let off a bit of steam, though if you have a large rowdy family, you might not relax in the quiet atmosphere!
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
All rooms except the two smallest can take an extra bed or baby cot. We suggest Jerepigo which is big enough for two extra beds to be added and has a separate roll top bath as well as a shower, or Solera which can also sleep 4 and has a bath, as it has its own patio garden and a separate seating area
Babysitting available by arrangement
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking