A few weeks ago, Seb and I had the pleasure of staying at the Burley Manor in the picturesque New Forest. The historic Burley Manor has gone through quite a transformation over the last year with its new owners (New Forest Hotels) pumping in over £1.8 million into restoring this grand old manor. Set among eight glorious acres overlooking the green expanse of Burley Park, this transformation really is incredible but more on this later.
In this post, I want to focus on the restaurant. Burley Manor very proudly calls itself a ‘restaurant with rooms’ after all! Executive chef James Forman (formerly of the three AA-Rosette restaurant at Cotswold House in Chipping Campden) is the mastermind behind the Mediterranean inspired menu that is served up in this relaxing dining room complete with mismatched furniture and olive trees.
The dining room is really nice but to make your meal really special, book yourself a table in the conservatory facing the New Forest National Park and enjoy the sunset complete with grazing deer and stunning British countryside. Our very knowledgeable sommelier bought out a bottle of white that I daresay, was even better than the view. We were set for the evening.
We started off with some freshly baked bread which was served up with some olive oil and chilli oil. I love trying out new flavours and the bread definitely was an explosion of flavour. I am a stickler for good bread and if you read my blog regularly, you know I am fussy. Warm and perfectly baked, I couldn’t fault it even if I tried!
The bread was quickly followed by a selection of tapas from the menu. Lamb kibbeh, wild mushroom & mozzarella croquetas along with a bowl of cumin houmous with dukkah pine nuts; all beautifully served up with some warm flatbread. The lamb was tender and delicately flavoured and the croquetas were exactly what I was expecting but the dish that really impressed me was the bowl of cumin houmous. Getting cumin right is difficult but this tapas dish was spot on. Seb and I were so impressed, we actually ordered a second bowl. I cannot recommend it enough.
Unfortunately my pan-fried squid starter did not impress – it was a little too rubbery for my liking. The beans did nothing for the dish and I wasn’t a fan of the watery gravy that the squid sat in. Such a shame as I was really expecting this dish to be as impressive as the tapas that it followed. Seb’s starter of fried haloumi on the other hand was absolutely spot on. Beautifully presented on a green plate, the crispy haloumi couldn’t have look more appetising. The red pepper coulis was stunning and the aubergine caviar was spot on. The flavours complemented each other – another winner in my eyes!
Okay this is where I get really excited. My chermoula seven spiced lamb was the best lamb dish I have ever tried. There I said it. Christ, this dish was out of this world. Beautifully plated, perfectly cooked, stunningly flavoured and perfectly complemented with a simple tricolour salad, I don’t have enough adjectives to compliment this stunning main. This is exactly the kind of cooking that gets me excited – simple. elegant but skilfully perfected.
Seb’s main of slow cooked pork belly with butter beans and piquillos ragout was not bad either. The pork belly was cooked to perfection and the butter beans actually added to this dish (unlike my squid starter). It was devoured quickly which is never a bad sign. If you like your meat, you are going to love the menu at the Burley Manor – from duck to beef, the menu is a meat lovers paradise.
Burley Manor requests of its patrons to enjoy the ‘warm, relaxed way of life in the Mediterranean’ and that is exactly what Seb and I did. A glass of the Jean Biecher Pinot Gris in hand, we saw the sun set over the stunning rolling downland and the deers wander off into the safety of their night. Burley Manor is designed for you to slow down and enjoy life, that little bit more, as it’s wood-fired kitchen produce rustic dishes that transport you to the Mediterranean.
We finished off our meals with a selection of desserts from the menu. My passion fruit bavarois went down an absolute treat – light and delicate. The apricot and pistachio tart was slightly heavier but still just as delicious. I would happily recommend both desserts if you can stomach a third course (fourth in our case if you count the tapas).
It was 9.30pm before we left the dining room. It’s not often Seb and I get a chance to spend over 3 hours enjoying dinner but you can’t really help it. The Burley Manor coax you into slowing down and enjoying your food and as you can tell, the food is pretty impressive.
James Forman has really done a great job reviving the Burley Manor restaurant. As surprisingly as it may sound, competition is fierce in this area with foodie favourite The Pig and its sister property, Lime Wood (which has an Angela Hartnett-fronted restaurant), nearby. It’s not easy for a restaurant vying for the same foodie audience to hold its own, especially a new one.
Yes, a few of the dishes don’t make the grade but I see potential. This restaurant has bags full of ambition and the dishes I tried are a great sign of things to come. I would happily go back just for another plate of that delicious Chermoula Seven Spice Lamb.
Would I recommend trying the Burley Manor? Definitely! Book yourself a room and make a weekend of it.