Lime Wood Hotel: The perfect countryside escape 90 minutes from London

Food & Drink, Travel

Need a break from London? Less than a two-hour drive from the city is Lime Wood, a country hotel and spa in the New Forest that offers everything you could possibly want from a night or two away. DOSE writer Charlotte paid a visit and reports back on her luxury staycation…

Lime Wood is a pretty white Georgian house, stately but not imposing, that has been cleverly added on to over the years. ‘Countrified contemporary’ is probably the best way to describe its aesthetic. Smarter than your average country pile but with zero stuffy formality, it’s got wellies for you to borrow in the boot room, comfy, squishy sofas and nooks and crannies everywhere you turn – but it’s light, airy and refined.

The food

Photo: Amy Murrell

It’s worth coming for the food alone, which is overseen by the famed duo Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder. Fruit, veg and herbs are grown in the on-site greenhouse, and anything from salmon to pancetta and salami has been treated in the hotel’s smokehouse. We have dinner at Hartnett Holder & Co, which dishes up hearty Italian food with an emphasis on home-style cooking and seasonality. With its red leather chairs, central bar, oversized pendant lanterns and warm, relaxed vibe – there is no need to dress up for dinner here – this is the sort of restaurant you wish was right on your doorstep.

Whatever you do, order the pasta. We dine on ravioli stuffed with polenta and adorned with fresh truffles shaved on right before your eyes (the chance to sniff the glass cloche they’re stored under is a highlight), parmesan gnocchi, salt baked bream and some of the best tiramisu in town. The helpful sommelier is excellent at assisting.

Breakfast is served in the scullery and is a relaxed affair, with a big spread of cheeses, croissants, boil-your-own eggs and cereal supplemented with an à la carte menu of heartier dishes – the Eggs Royale is a standout.

The spa

Photo: Amy Murrell

The vast spa, Herb House, is renowned. You can choose to spend the day here, eating light, modern fare at spa restaurant Raw & Cured, sitting by the heated indoor pool or meandering from steam room to hydrotherapy pool to sauna, but whatever you do, book in for a treatment: whether it’s a Sarah Chapman facial or Bamford massage, the options are thoughtfully designed and therapists are excellent. The Bamford Body Signature Treatment is two hours long and both relaxing and invigorating, starting with a full body salt scrub exfoliation – a wonderful way to sort out dead skin cells at the end of winter – and ends with a total body massage using essential oils: pick which of chamomile, rosemary or peppermint you are most drawn to. Your feet are similarly looked after, and there’s a scalp massage, too.

The bedroom

Photo: Amy Murrell

Having a treatment, though, does require leaving the bedroom, and given how gorgeous ours is, I struggle to advocate entirely for that. Our suite in the main house has a separate sitting room and it is all tastefully decorated in warm neutrals, with a lovely teal velvet chaise longue at the foot of our four poster bed and wonderful views of the grounds. In fact, a forest view from the marble bath tub itself is just one more reason to draw a bath with Bamford goodies and relax. The mini bar contains Tyrell’s crisps and Dairy Milk, there’s an iPod docking station and a stack of magazines. Heaven indeed.

What else to do

Photo: Amy Murrell

There is a cookery school but if weather permits, you’ll want to be outside. The grounds here are beautiful, with nearby ponies to coo at and acres of gorgeous land to walk and cycle on. Maps in the bedroom highlight pretty walks of varying lengths. One destination is sister hotel The Pig at Brockenhurst, where we book in for lunch.

Far more rustic than Lime Wood – think taxidermy and plenty of wood – food is a highlight here. We start with nibbles and bubbles in the bar (the beetroot and horseradish on a crispbread is excellent) before moving into the main restaurant for lunch. It feels like sitting in a secret garden, greenhouse-style, complete with indoor greenery, a colourful mosaic tiled floor and a Foxley thyme plant on our table, to be used as desired – the next door table has parsley on theirs. The Pig serves a truly amazing 25 mile menu, with everything bar the beef sourced from within that radius, ensuring food is hyper fresh, hyper seasonal, and supports local farmers. It grows many of its own vegetables on site – the kitchen garden is well worth a wonder.

Photo: The Pig at Brockenhurst

Bread served with garden herb-infused oil and home-smoked salt kicks off a seriously good meal. Staff are charming and with the menu divided into sections like ‘garden, greenhouse and poly tunnel’ and ‘forest and solent’ you know you’re in good hands. Standouts include ox heart, New Forest asparagus and tobacco onions, a house specialty, all served on wonderfully pretty mismatched crockery.

We leave utterly full and utterly charmed. If you’re staying at Lime Wood, The Pig is more than worth the 15 minute drive, and the New Forest is full of delights.

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