A TRIP into the heart of New Forest National Park is an experience to be savoured and there is certainly no shortage of options when it comes to fine dining. But the offering at Forest Park Country Hotel is a gem getting the attention it deserves.

With everything the Forest is known for on its doorstep, the venue would struggle to pick a more fitting location.

It also carries a raft of history. Following his US presidency, Theodore Roosevelt dined at the Brockenhurst hotel in 1910 during a visit to the UK, while the site served as a hospital for Indian and New Zealand military in the First World War.

Recently, multi-million-pound renovations culminated in the reopening of the independently-owned hotel, restaurant and inn and these efforts have paid off.

The restaurant is led by resident hotel director Kevin Wood, executive head chef Mateusz Nowatkowski and senior sous chef James Gunn. Mateusz returned from Barcelona to take up the post, while he is supported by a talented team.

Manager Russell Carley made us most welcome on our evening at the restaurant, talking us through the work that had been done to refurbish the venue. He also explained all ground-floor rooms in the hotel were dog friendly, which had proved extremely popular.

The décor at Forest Park embodies its location, with nature and woodland themes throughout alongside a stunning garden backdrop lined with a canopy of established trees.

A menu packed with depth and variety would entice you to come back after your first visit to sample all on offer.

We chose the grilled halloumi cheese (£9) and Forest Park crayfish cocktail (£8) to start. The dishes arrived swiftly with stellar presentation. A cherry tomato salsa and pickled carrot with pea foam provided an added punch to the halloumi wedges.

The crayfish cocktail provided a light but generous offering, with the Marie Rose sauce complimenting the tender freshwater crustaceans.

Mains soon followed and we plucked for the seared corn-fed chicken supreme (£15.50) and an eight-ounce fillet steak (£29.90).

The chicken proved to be moist and packed a punch thanks to a rosemary thyme and lemon marinade. A selection of baby vegetables added crunch and substance to a balanced culinary delight. The potato dumping was a first for me but a welcome addition. A generous pouring of chicken gravy added extra flavour to a plate not lacking in that regard.

The West County fillet steak, aged for 35 days, cooked to medium was a succulent treat. A pink peppercorn sauce (béarnaise and blue cheese were also on offer) added a smooth touch to the meat. Accompanied by a jacket potato, Portobello mushroom, grilled tomato, peas and a generous side wedge of iceberg lettuce, the restaurant delivered a contemporary and exquisite take on a classic.

Desserts, recommended by the waitress completely lived up to the billing.

The chef’s choice of dessert (£7.90) on our visit will live long in the memory. A trio of brownie slices, meringues and fresh berries with a scoop of chilli chocolate ice cream from Bournemouth-based Giggi’s was everything a dessert should be. Presented to such a standard it felt wrong to ruin it but the sweet treat was too hard to resist.

Meanwhile, the raspberry and amaretto pavlova (£7.90) served with toasted almond flakes and Chantilly cream arrived stacked in a delicate tower of richness. The smooth pavlova contrasted to the juicy raspberries and crunch of mini meringues.

As the evening went on, the high standards set on arrival and from our first dishes never dropped, with every plate showcasing the passion for food shared by everyone involved at the restaurant.