If anything could make a New Forest stay more attractive to foodies, it’s staying just across the border in Dorset. Here, in the southern county where so much fine produce is grown, the picturesque hamlet of Cranborne fields La Fosse, a restaurant with rooms designed to delight gourmet guests.
Chef-patron Mark Hartstone, who has worked in some of the area’s most illustrious kitchens, including those of Chewton Glen, picked up a Best Chef prize in the Dorset Magazine Food, Drink and Farming Awards 2015, and is a champion of local produce.
So it seems fitting he has established a permanent perch in a village so well endowed with eminent edibles the post office sells locally-bred pork and artisan bread which until recently was baked right on the premises. Within a couple of miles’ drive there’s also a butcher selling fine meat from nearby herds, and a fine farm shop.
While rooms are best described as shabby-chic – our creaking floorboards and antique wardrobe, which juddered slightly as we stepped across them, were all part of the experience – people who book in are mainly here for the grub. Not that a room guarantees you a dinner table, as locals make sure the restaurant is fully booked on weekends, so request one when booking.
Menus, which change daily, are rich in fine local fresh fish and carefully bred meat, but save room for a spectacular cheeseboard featuring rare Hampshire and Dorset varieties which has won its own award. Breakfast, as you would expect, is a magnificent blow-out.
Mark and his wife Emmanuelle have cleverly extended the season by adding a Scandinavian barbecue hut where a family or group of friends can cook their own carnivorous dinner and enjoy it alfresco when global warming permits in the pretty little garden.
The New Forest is a year-round attraction, as is the fabulous Camborne Manor garden centre and cafe on the doorstep of La Fosse.
Nearby we discovered a Norman church ruin in a field surrounded by prehistoric henge circles and other sites with mystical overtones.
Not to be missed is Milton Abbey, within the Capability Brown-designed grounds of the eponymous public schooll, with many relics of an earlier Mediaeval church on display. It lies just beyond the picturesque planned village of Milton Abbas, an easy and scenic drive.
La Fosse is also well-placed for Dorset’s Jurassic coast as well as the charming towns, villages and fields of ponies which characterise the New Forest, particularly the less well-trodden northwest corner closest to this delightful red-brick establishment.
The Hartstones provide wellies and Ordnance Survey maps to make sure guests don’t get lost exploring – just one example of the warm and friendly service which complements the great nosh.
Tell me more about La Fosse, Cranborne
La Fosse B&B and Restaurant
B&B from £75
Dorset BH21 5PR