Hotel Review: Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst in the New Forest
I love the New Forest and whenever I have a trip planned for the southern national park I can’t help but imagine a serene and satisfying getaway.
It’s the feeling of escape, the stunning scenery, delicious food on offer and the many spa hotels that attracts me. I mean that sounds perfect, doesn’t it?! And what better way is there to relax and rejuvenate than to find a place that encompasses all of the above. That’s the reason about 10 minutes after checking in to the 4 star Balmer Lawn Hotel I found myself by the pool with a smile on my face.
Sitting for over 100 years in the heart of the New Forest, the former hunting lodge, army hospital (during the first world war) and army staff college (during the second world war) has survived fire and has regained its classic country house hotel status, being run by the Wilson family for over 20 years. The hotel has seen plenty of refurbishment but retains the charm of a national park escape with roaring fires, a quality restaurant serving tasty, hearty food, welcoming open public areas and more secluded public areas to relax in. The place is very family friendly and you’ll find that your four-legged friend is more than welcome too.
I made good use of the facilities in the Saltus Spa starting in the bubbling hot tub, taking a dip in the indoor pool (there’s an outdoor one too for warmer days) and sweating it out – not for long! – in the Finnish sauna. My guest made use of the gym equipment and I very nearly fell asleep on the lounger, I felt so relaxed! There’s a separate spa area for treatments with a relaxation room that looked good enough to settle down in for a while, with a wide range of facials, massages and specialist treatments to choose from using ESPA products.
Dining at the resident restaurant, Beresfords, is a must and I think it fully deserves its 2 AA rosettes. I spied my winning trio of a scallop starter, beef main and chocolate dessert and, call me boring but I just couldn’t resist. The ‘hand-dived’ Shetland scallops were served with a cauliflower purée and yuzu gel (£13). Three succulent scallops sat on a light, creamy and slightly earthy tasting purée and little sweet, fruity cubes added a sweetness to bring the flavours together. The presentation was pretty and I could have eaten a few portions of this, it was so nice, but I had more to come.
Next up was the 28 day matured fillet steak (£30), which came with fat chips, flat mushroom, watercress and vine tomatoes – I asked for those to stay in the kitchen, I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of tomatoes! I added the red wine sauce and I’m glad I did – it was beautiful, sweet and rich, and it suited the perfectly cooked meat very well. In fact the meat was outstanding, the chips were crisp and chunky, exactly how I like them and a side of kale was a welcome addition. I would have liked an element of garlic or onion but otherwise it was a really good plate of food, especially with the glass of Cabernet Sauvignon I had in hand.
My guest opted for the foie gras – in smooth pate form – with golden raisin purée, duck ham and croute followed by belly of pork with bubble and squeak, nero, chorizo and olive dressing (£8 and £18). He loved the combination of rich, sweet and salty flavours and smooth, meaty, doughy and slightly crisp textures on his starter. He enjoyed his main and the hearty portion but felt that there could have been more crispy/crunchy textures.
We were filling up but we love our food so desserts were ordered, after a short break. Sharing a sweet and savoury is our preferred option so we opted for the white chocolate cream with raspberry textures at £7 and the selection of artisan cheeses with chutney at £10. The white chocolate was a set cream and was light, smooth and gorgeous, brightened with raspberry ice cream, coulis, soaked berries, crunchy pieces and little crispy meringue blobs. From the cheese trolley we had a great selection including goat’s, Lancashire Bomb, Cornish Yarg, blues and bries – the quality of the cheeses was really good and the crackers, quince jelly, chutney and red grapes were a welcome accompaniment.
Beresfords has a smart bistro feel to it with an abundance of floor to ceiling windows covered in white shutter blinds, a rich, dark wood floor, matching table tops and high-backed leather chairs. The service from the waiting staff was brilliant and breakfast there was plentiful too. A large hot a cold buffet awaits with a selection of items available to order from the kitchen such as creamy porridge with or without honeycomb, omelette with cheese, ham, onion, mushroom or tomato and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs. From the buffet you can select all the typical Full English items, continental meats and cheeses, breads, Danish and French pastries, home-made seasonal jams, cereals, fruits and juices.
One of 54 rooms and suites, all decorated in varying style, ours was smart and modern and faced the front lawn, which holds cricket matches in the summer. Pale grey painted walls and grey and white feather-patterned wallpaper, a black carpet and headboard, grey soft leather armchairs and flashes of wine red in the cushions and bed cover combined to make our room a contemporary one. A chunky mid wood wardrobe, desk/dressing table and bedside tables finished the room, which had lovely views from two large windows. Being in a secluded location meant there was very little noise at night, if any, as the hotel was a short distance from the village centre.
Balmer Lawn Hotel rests on the outskirts of Brockenhurst, which sits towards the centre of the New Forest and is a place I find myself returning to time and time again. The quiet village has a small selection of pubs and some very good places to dine at too – try Britannia Thai for some scrumptious Thai cuisine. There’s a train station, which whizzes you to or from the capital in an hour and a half and, of course, one of the main draws of visiting the area is the stunning landscape, of which there are many routes to explore. There are walks from the hotel and many things to see and do just a short drive away. During this trip we headed down to Lepe Beach – a gorgeous stretch of land, which forms part of Lepe Country Park and holds views to the Isle of Wight. We also visited the villages of Burley and Milford on Sea and you’re not far from Beaulieu and its famous National Motor Museum either.
IN A NUTSHELL
Any trip is what you make it and I quite fancied a relaxed one, in a beautiful place, with very little effort involved from my part, and that’s exactly what I got! The amiable staff at Balmer Lawn Hotel work hard to ensure that you are welcomed, well looked after and fed well too! I just love the peace the New Forest brings for me and all the things listed earlier and I can’t wait to return time and time again to enjoy them.
Address: Lyndhurst Rd, Brockenhurst SO42 7ZB / 01590 623 116