The Passford House Hotel for eating at is one of those rare gems of hospitality that is worth mining for in the lanes and byways of The New Forest.
The original parts of the building date back as far as 1500 AD. Since then extensions have been added until as recently as the 1990’s but none of them takeaway from the original lines at front of house.
It’s most famous residents and owners were Lord and Lady Arthur Cecil. That is not a name that trips off the tongue in an inflexion of historical significance but his Lordship was Queen Victoria’s Private Secretary.
There are ten acres of grounds laid out to formal gardens, a kitchen garden which supplies the hotel’s kitchen, putting course, croquet lawn, a Monet style garden and a helicopter landing area which we did not use.
The hotel is tucked away in a side lane between Sway and Lymington and is approached from a driveway that goes down a steep hill. Look out for the discrete sleeping policemen.
Dinner on Sunday 31st August 2016 for three covers. (Heather Russell, Bruce King & Alan Russell)
We started off in the bar where we were made very welcome by all of the staff. Somehow the bar man knew my name as he greeted me with ‘Mr Russell’ as soon as I went up to order some drinks. (I used to be in the film industry but that is another story for another day.)
For appetisers Heather went for the Soufflé Special. Our Bruce had the mackerel while I settled for the Isle of Wight Tomato starter which is a serving of tomatoes from the Isle of Wight of red, yellow and mauve served with cubes of local goat’s cheese. No need for comments as all the plates were cleaned when the restaurant staff took them away.
There were plenty of choices for vegetarians on the menu and Heather took the recommendation for the Gnocchi flavoured with beetroot. Her only comment was ‘It’s too much…but it’s lovely’ Bruce had the rib eye steak with peppercorn sauce and a stack of chunky homemade chips which was commended. I settled for the salmon nicoise served with a poached egg done to a perfection I can never achieve. Again, all the plates were cleaned so what greater compliment can a kitchen have.
By now the light outside had faded and garden lights came on illuminating the trees and undergrowth while we debated the merits of having or not having dessert. The ‘having’ side of the debate won the argument in a very short time. Heather had the gooseberry tart while our guest and I settled for the peanut parfait. Plates cleaned again.
Overall the food was excellent, full of flavours that oozed quality and freshness. Presentation superb. Service – really good.
You may wonder why I used the expression ‘leave left, retrieve right’? This is a phrase used in silver service to explain the ritual of first serving food by serving it from the left hand side of the diner and then retrieving the plates, empty in our case, from the right. Everything for this meal was done to this standard at The Passford House Hotel.
Would we revisit Yes. Would we recommend it to friends and anyone else? Yes. Without hesitation on both counts. Well done team Passford. We will be back to try the lighter bar snacks menu as long no one minds us turning up straight from the stables.