Your Cheshire and Merseyside Wedding - May/June 2023 (Issue 69)

I’m a huge advocate for mini-mooning in the UK (obviously), and since the dark days of lockdown it’s increasingly become the thing to do – short trip post W-day here in Blighty followed by an overseas vacay later on if you’re so inclined. I’m here to tell you that for the former you’ll struggle to find better than the glorious New Forest. I recently visited two incredible hotels in Hampshire, each one perfect for newlyweds in their own way. GREAT EXPECTATIONS After a picturesque drive through the New Forest spent pony spotting, we pulled up at Grade II listed hotel The Montagu Arms, tucked away in a quiet corner of Beaulieu, our first port of call on this trip. Incidentally, thanks to the rain I never did see a pony! The ample car park is located behind the hotel, so our introduction to the place was via the absolutely delightful grounds, reminiscent of the eponymous childhood story, The Secret Garden. Scattered with water features, beautifully tended flower beds, lawns and cobbled paths wending their way to the entrance, I only wished the weather had been kind enough to let us enjoy them more. AN IDYLLIC RETREAT Boasting 22 bedrooms and suites in the main house, with 33 in total within the hotel, each has it’s own unique design and layout, featuring the ultimate combination of comfort and sophistication. Decorated in a chic and charming country-house style, the soft tones and textures used to create a peaceful space were right up my street. Our home away from home for the night was one of the property’s stunning Courtyard Retreats hidden amongst the aforementioned gardens and converted from the house’s original 1920s chauffeur’s garages. I don’t know what I was expecting, but to call Hazel a “room” would be doing it a gross disservice. With the look of a space taken straight from the pages of Home & Garden magazine, its vast glass façade looked out over the central courtyard allowing the best of the outside in, and the team have left no stone unturned when it comes to providing all the comforts you could wish for. This even extends to the smallest of details such as the mini torch attached to the retreat’s keyring, to help you find your way safely through the gardens to the hotel at dinner time, or stagger back after a hearty meal and perhaps a wine flight. Let’s talk about the bathroom! Possibly on a par with the footprint of my entire house, it boasted a roll top bath, twin sinks, walk-in shower, bidet, and the necessary, of course. You’re never going to step on each other’s toes getting ready here, and the SenSpa toiletries were a real treat, as well as a hint of what awaited on day two. I can’t recommend this spot highly enough to newlyweds. It’s the perfect retreat for a secluded, romantic, relaxing break. TIME TO DINE It was time to see if dinner in The Terrace, the hotel’s awardwinning restaurant, was equal to the benchmark laid down by our accommodation. Marketing hails it as offering an unparalleled finedining experience, and I can’t argue with that. Led by executive chef, Dan Burrell, the menus here champion seasonality and fresh, hyper-local Hampshire ingredients, including produce from the hotel’s own bountiful organic kitchen garden. Looking at the menu it was a difficult choice, but ultimately I opted for the 42-day aged beef tartare with horseradish and onion purée to start; followed by Cornish red mullet with champagne sauce, artichoke, mussels, and pink fir potatoes. I finished my meal with a delicious selection of local cheese and biscuits. Every mouthful of the entire meal was an explosion of flavour and culinary discovery, while the knowledgeable and charming sommelier, Paulo, selected the perfect English wine to go with it – a Kentish Chapel Down Bacchus, plus a cheeky taste of Norfolk’s Winbirri Bacchus. No evening would be complete without a nightcap, so we headed to the tranquil lounge for a Brandy Alexander, which I’ve since decided is my new favourite cocktail! HAMPSHIRE! Hooray for Kelly Andrews headed to the New Forest to find out what makes it such a special spot for mini-mooners Scan to view video 88