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It’s fair to say that the New Forest was not on our radar, especially since we never heard of this part of South East England before our recent visit. That’s why it’s so surprising, at least to us, that we liked it so much that we’re already talking about returning for a second New Forest getaway.
What is the New Forest?
Flowers bloom colorfully and ponies roam freely in South East England’s New Forest. But that’s just part of the story since it’s a busy destination with food trails and lots of fun things to do.
The New Forest’s history stretches thousands of years from the Bronze age to the Saxons and finally to the Normans. William the Conqueror claimed the area known as the New Forest as his own back in 1066, setting the meadowed acreage aside as a personal hunting ground.
Today, a large number of horses and livestock fill the open lands. During high season, British camping expeditions cross the road at every turn, sharing the open tree-dotted fields with the resident horses, cattle and sheep.
Narrow roads lead past and through classic English villages filled with stone houses and thatched roofs. The area was even used to train Allied forces for the Normandy D-Day invasion during World War II.
Our New Forest Getaway
We only got a small taste of the New Forest during our culinary tour of Southern England, but we like what we tasted. That’s why we want to recreate our New Forest getaway with more time to check out the area at a slower pace.
When we do, we will be sure to revisit two awesome spots: The Pig and New Forest Cider.
Drinks and Dinner at The Pig
We almost missed out on The Pig due to a comedy of events.
Although we had hightailed it to the restaurant from our Bombay Sapphire Distillery tour, we were delayed due to a false fire alarm at the distillery, only to arrive at The Pig to find out the restaurant was having a random power outage. The situation looked dire after manager Jon McDonald told us that the restaurant was fully booked that evening.
However, after a fair bit of begging on our end and a tremendous dose of generosity on McDonald’s end, we scored an early dinner reservation at what is arguably the best restaurant in the New Forest and one of the finest in South East England.
The change of our reservations from lunch to dinner afforded us time to traipse around the Pig’s comprehensive and ambitious garden filled with an enormous range of edible fruits and vegetables. Vines of apples grow next to a hoophouse filled with tomatoes, and vivid yellow flowers smile over all manner of lettuces.
All of this gorgeous vegetation makes its way into the restaurant’s creative, inspired kitchen. Once again, this is a garden, not a farm, but what a grand garden it is.
For our dinner, we ate enough to whet our appetite for a return visit. When we return, we will surely start our meal with cocktails from the beautiful, dark wood-paneled, sunlit cocktail lounge.
And we will likely partake in cocktails like Jack’s G&T and the Notorious P.I.G. that go so well with all the glorious piggery, unless we choose to start with a glass of English sparkling wine instead.
We loved starting our dinner with tasty, creative “Piggy Bits” that included breaded, fried bitterballen-esque pig meatballs, soft cooked, pork embedded ‘brock eggs’ and saddleback cracklings over applesauce.
Our main courses were highlighted by the ‘bath chap’ – a whole pig’s jowl (served with the teeth – animal rights activists stay away!) capped with a crunchy crackling skin and a layer of fatty, rich, yet meaty pork jowl beneath as well as a variety of dishes with ingredients plucked from the restaurant’s kitchen garden.
The Pig is located at Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst SO42 7QL, United Kingdom.
Tasting at New Forest Cider
Driving in the New Forest is not a passive event. The roads are winding, and the scenery is breathtaking. We were almost sad when we arrived at our afternoon destination so quickly, but not so sad when the cider started flowing.
Samples are generous and flavors are funky at New Forest Cider’s tasting room in the cute village of Burley. Best of all, Barry Topp is eager to explain the family’s cider-making process and the resulting fruity beverage.
In a nutshell, Topp and his crew mechanically pick Kingston Black apples, press the juice and create cider using a natural fermentation process. Conditioned in whiskey bottles, the cider is flavor forward with a taste that is both bitter and sweet at the same time.
Drink the cider with ginger beer. The resulting beverage is surprisingly enjoyable.
The New Forest Cider tasting room is located at Pound Lane, Burley BH24 4ED, United Kingdom.
Book Your New Forest Hotel
We recommend staying at the Balmer Lawn Hotel for its laid back luxury and convenient proximity to The Pig. The full-service hotel has squash and tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a gym, a Finnish sauna and a spa bath.
Click here to find a great rate for Balmer Lawn Hotel.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.