New Forest restaurants offer some of the finest dining in Hampshire. Although there are currently no Michelin star restaurants in the New Forest, there are some recommended by the Michelin Guide, as well as some very near misses. The Terrace at the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu, for example, previously held one, and remains Michelin recommended.
If you’re a glass-half-full type, you can in fact see the lack of Michelin stars as a real plus. You’re more likely to get a table – and to pay less for the privilege. These are the venues out to seriously impress each and every diner, as expert chefs chase the prized accolade that is presently eluding them. Although that could change at any time.
Do book in advance, though. These places are incredibly popular, as is the beautiful New Forest as a whole. With miles of unspoiled heath and woodland, this glorious area near Southampton, Bournemouth and Poole is a wonderful place to spend time in, as well as to dine out in.
1. The Pig, Brockenhurst
In a secluded spot a little way up the road that leads from Brock (as it’s known in the area) to Beaulieu, The Pig is the shabby chic country escape personified. As for the on-site eatery, it’s one of the top restaurants in the New Forest for those who want to sample local food, boasting both a well-stocked kitchen garden and a 25-mile menu.
The Pig is also listed in the Michelin Guide, and the experts applaud the establishment for its clear and very present commitment to sustainability.
The food is hearty, delicious and well-presented. Service is attentive and the vibe is laid-back enough to make you feel right at home here.
2. The Terrace at the Montagu Arms, Beaulieu
The team at the Montagu Arms are passionate about the produce they use and the food they turn out – and it shows. This relaxed, traditional pub is in the heart of Beaulieu, a mere stone’s throw from the National Motor Museum. In fact, a path through the estate directly connects the two.
The outdoor terrace is a delight during clement weather. While settling down to feast within the stylish dining room is barely a hardship with the soothing views over the inn’s photogenic gardens.
As for the food, flavours combine and complement one another perfectly. Proving this is a kitchen team who take the utmost care over their craft.
3. Hartnett Holder & Co at Limewood, Lyndhurst
Popular TV personality Angela Hartnett is known for her unpretentious manner and her food is no different. Parquet flooring, button-back leather seating in deep red and painted wall panelling create a smart yet laid-back environment.
Sit back and sample a refined, Italian-style feast worthy of a mention in the Michelin Guide. All while enjoying sweeping views over the property’s impressive grounds.
If you’re on a budget, snap up the set lunch menu offering incredible value for money. If you’re not, do book in for an overnight stay and a spell at the sumptuous spa too. This is one of the most sought-after hotels in the New Forest, and with good reason.
4. Elderflower Restaurant, Lymington
The location of this restaurant recommends it almost as much as the food. Elderflower is slap bang in the heart of the upmarket New Forest town of Lymington. It’s home to Sir Ben Ainslie’s second Olympic gold post box, a pretty harbour, saltwater swimming baths, stylish shops, and smart eateries.
Elderflower serves up the finest food in town, creating modern British cuisine with the occasional French twist. Indeed, the owners have worked in some of both France and Britain’s top restaurants.
They now serve up fine food to be savoured in their cosy, low-ceilinged dining room on a quaint, cobbled harbourside street.
5. Verveine, Milford-on-Sea
Selling itself as a ‘fishmarket restaurant’, Verveine is located in sleepy Milford-on-Sea. It’s a relatively unknown seaside spot on the southern edge of the New Forest. With a menu that changes daily to reflect the finest produce available locally, it’s best to visit when you’re feeling a little adventurous.
There’s a very good chance that the catch of the day will feature somewhere on the list. Diners can choose between 4, 6 and 8 courses for dinner, while at lunchtimes there is a tasting menu in addition to 2 or 3 course options.
Carefully selected wine pairings are also available during the evenings, and all options offer great value for money.
6. Le Blaireau at Careys Manor, Brockenhurst
Foodie fans of all things French should be in heaven at Le Blaireau. Though if you do stay over at Carey’s Manor, there is also a good Thai restaurant within the main building. Le Blaireau is set apart somewhat, occupying a charming little structure in front of the hotel.
The aim is to recreate authentic French cuisine in the heart of the New Forest, all washed down with Old World wines or a cooling biere. Brockenhurst is in fact something of a hotspot for foodies, with The Pig just down the road.
If you don’t fancy driving to deepest Hampshire, the station is just a short stroll away too.
7. The Cartwheel Inn, Fordingbridge
Fordingbridge is a little off the usual well-trodden New Forest tourist track that encompasses Lyndhurst, Beaulieu, Lymington and Brockenhurst. But your taste buds will thank you for calling at Whitsbury near Fordingbridge. This is the first of two of the town’s restaurants featured in this guide.
At the time of writing, The Cartwheel Inn was ranked as the top eatery in the area by TripAdvisor reviewers, who praise the Sunday roasts, contemporary takes on pub classics and fresh seafood specialities.
Inside, it’s elegant yet very relaxed, very much in keeping with the classic English country inn.
8. La Perle, Milford-on-Sea
One more for peaceful Milford-on-Sea, this time to visit La Perle. This New Forest gem is located in the village centre, right opposite the sloping village green that borders the small settlement’s clutch of shops, cafes and restaurants.
Expect clever use of local ingredients like Dorset Blue Vinney in a souffle or Lymington lobster in a sauce for fish. There’s also the likes of the home baked vanilla shortbread that’s served with ice cream, as well as the Mediterranean and Asian influences seen in fresh ravioli or sashimi tuna.
9. Rose & Thistle, Fordingbridge
Another of Fordingbridge’s star eateries is featured here. This time you’ll need to head to Rockbourne on the New Forest’s outskirts, but it’s well worth your while. Especially if you have a penchant for the freshest, locally sourced game.
The look is quintessential New Forest. It’s a snug, whitewashed pub with a thatched roof that looks every bit as well suited to its surroundings as the local pony population does.
Whether you plump for a burger, belly pork, a hearty homemade pie or good old fish and chips, you can enjoy it in a traditional British Inn. All complete with beamed ceilings, blue-rimmed plates and a convivial atmosphere.
10. Monkey Brewhouse, Lymington
Back to Ben Ainslie’s adopted stomping ground now for a restaurant with its very own on-site microbrewery. From a relaxed Sunday lunch to a full-on gastronomic dining experience, the Monkey Brewhouse has been making waves in this coastal New Forest town since it was taken over by a local couple in 2019.
The menu draws inspiration from all over the globe, so you may start with an Italian, Spanish or Moroccan dish before moving your taste buds on to a British or Indian main. Desserts, meanwhile, are a mix of classic English picks like sticky toffee pudding and lighter options.
11. The Old Mill, Lymington
For visiting food fans, The Old Mill is the third place indicating that Lymington might just be where it’s all happening. Idyllically situated by the river just a few miles from town, this New Forest restaurant in Hordle is named for its past incarnation as a working water mill dating from the 1700s.
If you’re a family seeking dog friendly restaurants in the New Forest this could be the place to aim for. There’s a dedicated children’s menu offering dishes kids are actually guaranteed to devour.
While adults may wax lyrical about the steamed mussels served Asian style, short rib burger, fish pie or red lentil moussaka. The menu that changes monthly, meanwhile, will always give you a good excuse to return.
12. The Jetty, Christchurch
To say that the views from The Jetty are incomparable really is no exaggeration. The place perched on the water’s edge offers diners exclusive views over Hengistbury Head, where the pretty lines of overnight beach huts fetch princely sums of money whenever they go on the market.
The Jetty is overseen by local star chef Alex Aitken, a down-to-earth guy often seen strolling around the scenic grounds of the Christchurch Harbour Hotel chatting to guests. It was once named ‘Seafood Restaurant of the Year’, so you can expect lots of fresh fish dishes. In fact, a short after-dinner stroll will take you to Mudeford Quay, where much of the day’s catch actually arrives on land.
There are various menus to choose from at The Jetty, including the tasting and seasonal local produce menus as well as a dedicated vegan and vegetarian selection.
With these 12 delectable restaurants in the New Forest, discerning visitors will be spoilt for culinary choice. If you’re planning a visit to this beautiful part of the UK, discover the best things to do in the New Forest and the best luxury hotels in the New Forest. Or read my ultimate guide to the New Forest.