WITH its grand gateway, gravel car park and palm trees, The Lord Bute, located between the New Forest and the Dorset coast, reminds me of an exotic embassy.

Once home to Lord Bute, the Prime Minister of England from 1762 to 1763, the venue is equally impressive inside.

Now a boutique hotel, parts of the building used to be the original 18th century entrance lodges to Highcliffe Castle but have now been transformed into spacious, modern guest suites.

It also boasts an elegant and intimate setting for dinner, and is renowned for its popular jazz evenings and set menu (£27.95 for three courses) every Wednesday.

The restaurant is almost full and dining and music are well under way when we arrive. It’s a congenial, mature crowd.

On arrival we are invited to take a seat in an attractive conservatory bar that runs around the outside of the restaurant.

After a pre-dinner drink, Chris, the restaurant manager, takes our dinner order and invites us to our table.

We follow him to a table for two, laid with crisp white linen and with a perfect view of a The Bernie Farrenden Trio who are providing the evening’s entertainment.

Unlike some set restaurant menus, there is plenty of choice – there is at least five starters and eight mains.

For starters I had the leek, onion and goat’s cheese tartlet which was served warm with a crisp salad and drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

My husband opted for the cream of forest mushroom soup with a hint of sherry and topped with croutons and fresh chives.

This was full of flavour and served piping hot with a selection of homemade bread.

We were given plenty of time to digest our starters before our mains arrived.

I had the baked fillet of Atlantic cod which was served with a pea puree, fresh asparagus tips and a brown shrimp and lemon butter which was an inspired combination.

Meanwhile, my husband was making short work of his beef fillet (sourced from the Jurassic coast according to the menu) which was beautifully tender and served with a white onion confit, brandy cream sauce and hand cut chips (this dish comes with a £6.50 supplement).

Like the surroundings, each dish was elegant in presentation and decadent in portion size.

For dessert I had the caramel panna cotta served with a light syrup and served with soft berries and a white and milk chocolate straw perched on top.

This was just sweet enough to round off an excellent evening. Even if you don’t like jazz, it’s worth a visit for the quality of food.