Restaurant Review: Cambium at Careys Manor Hotel, Brockenhurst in Hampshire
During a visit to the delightful New Forest and a stay at Careys Manor Hotel and Spa, I was fortunate to enjoy a dinner at Cambium, the hotel’s main fine dining restaurant. One of three eateries on site, Cambium is inspired by the surrounding expanse of nature and serves up deliciously creative food.
The restaurant has seen a great improvement and renovation since a visit five years before, from a dated country house restaurant to a stylish and modern eatery. After a drink in the bar my guest Nick and I were shown to our table and made our dinner choices. We opted for the six course tasting menu, of which each dish was full of colour, taste and presented beautifully. The menus have been crafted by executive chef, Paul Peter, who has headed up a selection of 3 AA Rosette holding restaurants as well as working with the likes of Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race.
Before any of the tasting menu dishes arrived we were brought an amuse bouche of sea bass with tartare sauce and lemon purée on squid ink rye, which was delicate with a nice tang. We also sampled a selection of breads, with a white milk option being my favourite, before chatting with the sommelier, who decided to bring us a carafe of Spanish white to accompany the first three courses and a Spanish red for the last three. Neither Nick or I are keen on dessert wines so this was a great option for us.
Course one was tuna; tataki, wasabi, daikon, nori crisp, spring onion, yuzu and soya mushrooms. It looked lovely and colourful and had a delicious mix of tangy, spicy and onion flavours to uplift the delicate, light and fresh main elements on the plate. The tuna melted in my mouth and sprinklings of sesame seeds added some warmth to the food.
Course two was rabbit; presse of rabbit, bon bon, date, smoked carrot, rye crisp and pickled blackberries. The presentation was creative and modern with the ingredients spread out across a wide plate. The pressed rabbit was rough in texture and light in flavour and was well complemented by the carrot and berries. The warm, crispy bon bon was nice and there were lots of fresh and fruity flavours to make up for the sightly bland rabbit flavour.
Course three of scallops; hand dived, celeriac, pear, roasted hazelnuts and celery cress was so good it is difficult to put into words! The juicy scallops were well matched with the citrusy, nutty flavours, purées and little pickled flavours. The soft, light and delicate textures and flavours on the plate were well thought out, presented with care and were well paired with the chosen wine.
Course four was lamb; loin, braised shoulder, broad beans, pommery mustard, goat’s curd and wild nettle. This dish was cheesy, sumptuous, rich and creamy. I don’t love the flavour of lamb, I find it rather overpowering, and paired with the intense cheese flavour here, it didn’t help. Though I thought the loin of lamb had a wonderful texture – as did the crispy braised element – this wasn’t my favourite course. I loved the curd and honey and I adore broad beans (really I do!), while Nick loved the lamb and the heat of the mustard compared with the sweet honey. The Rioja wine pairing smelled and tasted divine but the whole dish was a little too much for my taste buds.
Course five was a pre dessert of blackcurrant bavarois with jelly cubes and raspberries, and was a work of art on a plate. The finest layer of sponge held a smooth, flavoursome bavarois (Bavarian cream), which was nicely paired with rich, fruity berries and jelly.
Course six was a blood orange carpaccio, spiced pepper cake, pink peppercorn ice cream and blood orange tuille. The dense cake had lighter flavours and was lovely, as was a soft meringue but I really don’t like peppercorns at any time and they did nothing on this dish for me. A lot of skill was shown on this plate with the differing elements and it was a fruity, sweet, light, citrusy dish that we both enjoyed. There was the option of a final cheese course (with a supplement) and, believe me, the cheeses looked incredible, but we just couldn’t squeeze it in.
The look of the restaurant had greatly improved since our last visit, offering a more chic brasserie setting in which to dine. The interior, designed by Sue and Bonnie Stowell, is inspired by the New Forest, bringing the vast natural surroundings inside. Hand painted English trees sit on the walls, while leaf patterned screens in gold separate the restaurant up. Plants, dark wood tables and chairs with olive green fabric, low hanging gold light, beige, wood flooring and booths make up the space, which is light and spacious, yet a relaxing and intimate place to dine.
In a nutshell
A modern, chic and spacious place to enjoy creative cuisine, Cambium is a must if you’re in the area. Modern cooking is inspired by worldly influences, using ingredients from the wondrous surroundings and presented with grace to give you a meal worth travelling for.
Address: Lyndhurst Rd, Brockenhurst SO42 7RH / 01590 624467