Lime Wood sits neatly within the rural ideal that is the New Forest. The quintessential manor house is perched high amongst thick forest, rolling hills and is surrounded by wild horses who are free to wander the roads that lead the way to the hotel.
After a long three hour drive from London we finally arrive. It’s raining and the sky is completely grey to the point of being almost white. The terrible weather seems almost irrelevant as we proceed down the winding track and approach the grand regency era estate with excitement. In turn the incessant rain and howling winds make for the perfect excuse to indulge and bed in for the coming days. We’re relieved to arrive to numerous open fires and a hearty lunch ahead of us. The lengthy drive making it seem all the more deserving.
The hotel doesn’t feel dark nor dowdy as some traditional manor houses can; but feels bright, spacious and fresh. The main bar and lounge area, once an outdoor courtyard is transformed by mosaic black and white floor tiles, plenty of greenery and a high greenhouse like glass ceiling which instantly floods the room with natural light (whatever the weather!) Despite the warm country style feel there’s a refreshing airiness and vibrancy to this space, a welcome approach to country style living. We wander the rooms just to make sure we’re sat in the best spot and note that we’ll come back either to the snug or library (both complete with their own roaring fires) for a game of scramble and glass of red wine post our late lunch.
The rooms here I’ve heard are as pleasant on the eye as the rest of the building. Tastefully upholstered and designed with every consideration their guests may require. We set down our belongings in the room, the bed is up a floor on a mezzanine level and the bathroom is drenched in an envious amount of carrera marble. The roll top bath and enormous shower are complete with the most desirable nickel fixtures and make for my ultimate bathroom.
The restaurant is equally as pleasing. Pink leather pinned back chairs are the first thing that catches my coveting eye. A horseshoe shaped bar dominates the room breaking the dining area in two. A wall of windows at one end of the restaurant completes the picture offering diners a front row seat to the beautiful forest around us.
As you may have gathered from previous reviews and recipes Italian cuisine is my all time favourite food so it’s with great anticipation that we arrive to the restaurant headed up by Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder where Italian seasonal dishes are the central focus. Choose from a set menu or opt for the a la Carte. We start with antipasti of pear salad, ricotta, preserved lemon and candied walnuts. Delicate and light but completely delicious and an ideal palette cleanse ahead of the forthcoming courses. The Vegetarian indulges until fit to burst with a rich and earthy rigatoni, black cabbage, chilli, garlic and Parmesan followed by the incredible polenta agnolotti, truffle and artichoke ending up so full that he reluctantly had to bypass dessert. I on the other hand try the Seabass, apple and sage, ceviche style, followed by the risotto, red mullet and Castelfranco then loin of Dartmouth red deer, faggot, Jerusalem artichoke and horseradish which was honestly the most rich, delicious and luxurious of main courses. Each plate is perfectly paired with incredible wines should you wish and served alongside a fascinating dialogue of its journey to the table. Every dish arrives demanding attention through its inviting scent and its beautiful construction on the plate. We’re completely seduced by the menu and all that we consume finishing on a double espresso before retiring to the library and collapsing in front of the fire. Here we are free to wile away the rest of the evening with the entire room to ourselves with just the Sunday supplements, a bottle of red and a scrabble board for company.
I couldn’t recommend Lime Wood enough and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our stay. This is a beautiful and well-crafted retreat; a welcome break where every element is well considered to bring the maximum comfort and enjoyment. From the outdoor Jacuzzi to the beautiful glass fronted sauna facing out to the woodlands, the hotel cleverly does everything it can to connect you to the surrounding nature. You’ll leave feeling at one with the forest even if you’ve not set foot in it!