Tasting Menu at The Terrace
"It was, in short, a long menu full of love for the New Forest." Tracy Nash
It was a big birthday and an opportunity for a treat - the Tasting Menu at The Terrace, Montagu Arms tempted. This comprised seven courses created by Head Chef Matthew Whitfield who re-joined the Montagu Arms last January, returning to the New Forest via Eleven Madison Park, New York, one of the best restaurants in the world. So, I was prepared to be impressed.
Actually, visiting the Montagu Arms, Beaulieu, feels special from the off. You follow a lane to a hidden car park at the back of the Montagu Arms and wander through a secret garden to the reception of this olde worlde quintessentially English country house hotel. We were then led back out into the garden as we were staying in a cosy, bolt-hole of a suite in a 200-year-old converted barn.
We sipped the most amazing complementary sloe gin before strolling back to the hotel bar for pre-dinner drinks accompanied by tasty canapes – the venison bites deserve a special mention. We were then settled into The Terrace, a traditional restaurant with white tablecloths and discreet service.
We opted for the Tasting Menu. However, having been asked about allergies and so on when we booked, we knew there was no need to panic about any unhappy surprises.
It was, in short, a long menu full of love for the New Forest. As course followed course I expected, surely, that one of them would disappoint. But, no, it didn’t happen. Each dish was perfectly presented with subtle flavour combinations.
Matt Whitfield is a chef who understands and values local produce and flavours. His dishes shone. There was grilled plaice fillet with shellfish bisque; Pennington lamb with hispi cabbage, garlic, rosemary and Hampshire goat’s cheese; and New Forest mushroom with confit chicken, crispy shallots and pine jus.
Sergio the sommelier executed some perfect wine-matching. I particularly liked his passion for English sparkling wine – especially considering he is French! In fact all the team are great. Our young waiter was impressively knowledgeable about the huge selection of cheeses we were presented with. I know I’m biased, but the ripe Tunworth completely blew the cheese clock out. As explanation: our cheese choices were presented around a plate, along with quince jelly made from garden produce and a golden heap of aromatic New Forest honey, and it was suggested we work our way through them clockwise.
This was followed with not one, but two desserts. A refreshing spiced pineapple with kaffir lime leaf sorbet, and an indulgent fondant of salted caramel and malt Dad’s beer (I assume this is a reference to Matthew’s Dad as he does brew locally).
It was lovely to stroll back to our barn for a deep, peaceful, refreshing sleep, before tucking into one of the best breakfasts I’ve had the following morning.