“Be careful, they kick!” was the first piece of advice given to me upon my arrival at Brockenhurst’s Balmer Lawn Hotel which lies in the heart of the New Forest National Park. Home to 5,000 ponies, I was delighted to be surrounded by the animals as we drove over the cattle grids and towards to hotel. Surrounded by the most stunning open land with gorgeous (to look at) ponies happily grazing upon the grass, Balmer Lawn Hotel is bright and idyllic.
When looking for a country break, my partner and I’s criteria was pretty simple; we wanted somewhere quiet, with good food and even better wine. A short train journey from London, Balmer Lawn Hotel has achieved a tasteful blend of the contemporary and the traditional which perfectly marries wholesome country aspects with modern interior touches. We checked in to our room which we were told had recently been renovated. With 54 rooms in total, each has its own aesthetic and has been individually designed. Our room was located at the front centre of the hotel, with a gorgeous large balcony looking over the grazing animals. The room was plush, with dark plum touches. A huge bed stands as the centre piece of the room with a comfortable mattress to ensure a restful nights sleep. The bathroom was equally spacious with a in-bath shower and plenty of amenities.
Taking the rather elaborate and grand staircase to the hotel’s reception it was time for the spa. Located towards the back of the hotel we headed to Saltus Spa which was designed with nature in mind. Its extensive relaxation room had large glass doors which looked over the exquisite grounds almost bringing the beauty of the New Forest inside. A little haven of tranquility, Saltus Spa has spacious treatment rooms and is open until 5pm each day. I was booked in for the ESPA Back, Face & Scalp treatment. It was 85 minutes of pure bliss and my therapist was no short of an expert in making my experience bespoke and personalised. Using a special lamp, my therapist was able to tell me which areas of my skin needed a little extra TLC and recommended take-home products to purchase following the treatment. The massage was exquisite and I emerged from the treatment room floating. Next, we headed to the wet facilities which included a large pool, sauna and hot tub. Perfect for a dip, the space was bright and airy – something we often miss in larger hotels.
Heading back to our room suitably refreshed post-treatment, we began to get ready for dinner and arrived in the contemporary bar. Being a Saturday evening, the bar was busy with many celebrations happening around us. The atmosphere was buzzing and pleasant while we enjoyed a glass or two. With tummies rumbling, it was time for dinner. Within the hotel sits the AA rosette Beresford’s Restaurant, the interior was gorgeous and perfectly suited to the relaxed fine dining beauty of the venue. With an extensive menu that makes the most of local and seasonal produce our appetites were whet almost immediately as we were presented with a small loaf of freshly baked bread with local butter, sprinkled with a generous amount of lava salt. Delicious! So much so that we almost asked for another.
Enjoying a bottle of Chenin Blanc we perused the menu while chatting to General Manager Michael. His passion and enthusiasm for his job was infectious and only further solidified the hotel’s genuine statement that customer service really is at the heart of everything. Not afraid of a little bit of banter, we spent a long time discussing the recent developments of the hotel and what is to come. With Michael’s recommendations in mind, we begun with a starter of King Prawns in a chilli and garlic oil and Sesame Tempura Halloumi. Portions were generous but not intimidating or over imposing. The taste fusions were incredible with accompanying pickled tomato and spicy ketchup a favourite alongside the halloumi. Not one to turn down a steak, my partner chose to enjoy the 28-day matured fillet steak. Cooked to perfection it was complimented with a tasty and rich Peppercorn Sauce. Juicy fat chips sat proudly on the plate and quickly disappeared! I chose to enjoy the Cannon of Lamb which came with charred winter vegetables and smoked red wine ju. The lamb was rich in flavour and melted in the mouth while the jus provided a tasty hit of aromatic flavours.
Dessert was a gorgeous affair that had us wanting more. Being a self-confessed white chocolate addict I chose the White Chocolate Cream which was beautifully presented. Almost too pretty to eat, the dish was delicate and light which was perfect after a heavy meal. The flavours were not compensated however and were a perfect concoction of sweet and creamy. A sweet tooth through and through my partner chose the Salted Caramel Fondant which was presented perfectly. It was incredibly rich and decadent and got a huge thumbs up from us. The dining experience in Bereford’s Restaurant in Balmer Lawn Hotel was one not to be missed. The food was up there with some of the best that we’ve experienced and the serviced was relaxed. There was not a single point in our meal that we felt rushed making it the most fantastic location for a date or long overdue catch up with a friend. Staff were extremely attentive and knew the menu inside out which was particularly impressive.
Thanks to our huge comfortable bed, we drifted off in to a peaceful slumber and awoke feeling fresh and revitalised. Opening the curtains in the morning really revealed the true beauty of Balmer Lawn Hotel’s stunning location. Over a cup of tea, watching the ponies graze as the world was still asleep was the perfect way to begin a Sunday morning. The New Forest is simply gorgeous at that time of the morning. Breakfast is situated in Berefords and is both a continental buffet and hot menu. Enjoying fresh bread and fruit we both chose to enjoy a cooked breakfast from the hot menu which was the perfect fuel to power us on a walk around the stunning grounds.
Balmer Lawn is a little haven of tranquility in a stunning location. It has everything that you could need in a mini break from a spa and gorgeous food, to comfortable large bedrooms and plenty of walking routes. We will definitely be returning.