Looking for the best restaurants in the New Forest? Read on to discover the most delicious places to dine out (disclaimer: this article may make your mouth water).
Famous for its wildlife, free-roaming ponies and chocolate box villages that look sweeter than a tin of Quality Street, the New Forest is the UK’s smallest national park.
Does its limited size mean it’s light on activities for visitors to enjoy? Absolutely not. A day out in the New Forest can be packed with walks, visits to stately homes, outdoor pursuits and more (if you need proof, read about the Top 40 Unique Things to Do in the New Forest).
And with all that fresh air, fun and frolics, you’ll definitely need feeding. So it’s just as well the area has some superb places to eat. To help you choose, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best New Forest restaurants.
The Best Restaurants in the New Forest
A plethora of pukka places to dine out in the Hampshire hotspot!
1. Verveine, Milford On Sea
Best restaurant in the New Forest for… seafood lovers
If the idea of beautifully cooked fresh fish is tantalising for your tastebuds then you’ll want to book a table at Verveine, which has featured in top 100 lists in both The Times and Tatler. It’s also recognised by Michelin in its Good Food Guide. Easy to deem this one of the best restaurants in the New Forest!
This New Forest restaurant is located at the back of a fishmonger a few hundred yards from the sea, so you just know the chefs are going to have some of the most incredible ingredients at their disposal.
The menu changes daily but you can expect delights such as Brixham hake with Somerset chorizo, parsnip and wild garlic and incredible desserts such as a tonka bean pannacotta with cherry sorbet (yum).
The three-course lunch menu costs a very reasonable £27 a head, or if you fancy splurging, the eight-course dinner menu with matching wines comes in at £130 per diner. While we’re talking about splurging, check out the 9 Best Luxury Hotels in The New Forest for a Treat.
2. The Elderflower, Lymington
Best restaurant in the New Forest for… a special occasion
Set in a Grade II listed building, The Elderflower is a Lymington local treasure, popular for its quaint interior and inventive menu of high-quality, local produce cooked exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that the New Forest restaurant has been awarded three AA rosettes and head chef Andrew De Bourg is a former Hampshire Chef of the Year.
It’s worth pointing out that the menu is fixed and the dishes that await you will be a surprise. But game and seafood feature heavily — lip-smacking examples include roast halibut and lobster linguini with a tomato & red pepper salsa; cured venison with liquorice braised celery, mango and sea urchin veloute; and fig leaf tart with port roasted fig, white chocolate & blue cheese.
If that’s got your stomach rumbling, you should know that the surprise four-course menu costs £65 a head (plus £60 for the wine pairing). Given the price, this New Forest restaurant is probably one for a special occasion. But be sure to book ahead — especially if you’re planning a weekend visit.
For more on that, here’s my guide on How to Have a Brilliant Weekend in the New Forest.
3. The Cartwheel Inn, Whitsbury
Best restaurant in the New Forest for… pub grub
Sometimes, when you’re out in the Great British countryside, nothing cuts it like classic pub grub. If that’s the mood you find yourself in, The Cartwheel Inn definitely won’t disappoint.
Set in an 18th-century farm cottage, this brilliant boozer boasts a beautiful beer garden and serves up all the dishes you’d normally expect — cod, chips and peas, steak and chips, a traditional ploughman’s — but cooked to a turn.
There are also some less-traditional additions to the menu. Seared king scallops with roast cauliflower, curried cauliflower puree & garden herbs, for example, or Korean Style Chicken salad with Korean-style dressing, kimchi & hand-cut chips.
Two courses cost roughly £30-a-head. And, as you’d expect from a pub, there are plenty of options when it comes to choosing something to wash your meal down with. If you pop in for lunch, you may find yourself tempted to make an afternoon of it.
Easily one of the best restaurants in the New Forest!
4. Saltwater, Milford-on-Sea
Best restaurant in the New Forest for… brunch
Kicking off your day the leisurely way with a lie-in and a late brunch? You’ll probably want to head to this cute little cafe by the sea.
Decked out in cool, nautical shades, Saltwater offers a laid-back environment and an excellent menu, including brekkie delights such as avocado on sourdough toast with roasted tomatoes, poached egg and beetroot hummus; a virtuous poke bowl with wild rice, avocado, radish, edamame, cucumber, spring onions and tofu; or (for fans of something a little naughtier) the Sticky Pig Burger, with konkatsu pork belly, rocket crispy noodles and pickled veg served in a potato bun with fries.
If you’re feeling particularly bold, you could order a hard shake. Spiced rum and caramel ice cream, anyone?
A meal and a drink comes in comfortably at under £20, so it’s a reasonably-priced New Forest restaurant. And the quality of food is sure to put a spring in your step for the rest of the day.
5. Offbeet, Hinton
Best restaurant in the New Forest for… vegans
For fine dining that’s strictly plant-based, head off the beaten track to Offbeet, a New Forest restaurant that even the most committed carnivore will come home raving about (it has featured in The Times’ Top 30 Veggie Restaurants in UK).
For a flavour of the dishes on offer, there’s king oyster mushroom scallops, seared to finish and served with lemon and garlic butter bean purée, kalamata olive polenta, candied vanilla cherry tomatoes, caper powder and garlic hemp seed crumb (don’t mind if I do); or a ‘tear and share’ wild garlic focaccia with sun-dried tomato hummus and sumac. It sounds delicious but I’m not sure how much sharing will be going on.
What’s more, many of the ingredients are grown inside Offbeet’s own walled garden. But just because it’s plant based doesn’t mean it’s entirely virtuous — there’s a wicked cocktail menu and puddings such as ‘Donut You Just Love Strawberries’ (essentially a next-level jam donut) will mean you may have to undo the top button of your pants on the way home.
A three-course dinner and drinks comes in at around £65 a head. Which isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it for the inventiveness. You’ll also feel a whole lot closer to nature afterwards and, if that’s your bag, why not book a rustic glamping trip? Here are 6 Amazing Places to Go Glamping in the New Forest.
6. The Haven, Lymington
Best restaurant in the New Forest for… the view
This New Forest restaurant is worth a visit for the coastal view alone, but the food’s not half bad either.
Given its position on Lymington’s seafront, you won’t be surprised to learn that The Haven’s menu is mostly seafood. The dishes are all super fresh and cooked to perfection. Highlights include the stone bass fillet with pancetta, spring greens, wild Mushrooms and celeriac puree. Or the Indonesian fish curry, with king prawns, mussels and cod cheeks served with rice. Mains are around the £20-£25 mark.
If the sun’s shining, there’s outdoor seating (although it’s probably a good idea to book ahead for that). And you’ll have a chance to watch the boats come in from the Solent as you dine. Perfect!
The best restaurants in the New Forest
Hope you’ve enjoyed these best restaurants in the New Forest – let me know your favourites in the comments below!