One anticipates great things from the Hotel TerraVina, owned as it is by Gerard and Nina Basset, he with his newly acquired OBE for services to the hospitality industry and she with a respected career history of hotel inspection. So the rooms should be spotless, the food delicious, and the wine…? Well, Gerard is a World Champion Sommelier. I`m looking forward to this.
Gerard and Nina previously owned the Hotel du Vin chain and carry these credentials into the creation of this project; an intimate hotel with just eleven rooms located on the edge of their beloved New Forest.
Tucked away down a side road, the Hotel TerraVina looks like a rambling Victorian vicarage, the only signs that it might house something else hinted at by the tangerine orange front door and wealth of luxury cars lining the courtyard. The reception area creates the feeling of entering a family home, with rows of brightly coloured wellies pegged together giving a cheerful nod to the unpredictable English summer. Staff were immediately welcoming with the relaxed air that comes from confidence in the ability to deliver. A certificate proudly displayed in a jolly frame on the reception desk announced that Nina Basset has `adopted a panda`, again adding to the sense that you are a guest in a private house, albeit a rather exclusive one.
Each of the eleven guest rooms are named after a wine, giving a flavour of the treats in store at dinner time. Rooms are all individually styled; ours, with its cake-mix coloured walls, candy striped picture frames and cuddly toy dog resplendent on the bed again created the ambience of a guest room in a family home. The claw-footed freestanding bath and large exclusive terrace are details that remind you the hosts know how to make this a luxury experience as well as a comfortable one.
The hotel`s small bar area beckons you to indulge in a pre-dinner cocktail – the drinks menu, as one would expect, is extensive and very well – considered. Luckily, staff are on hand to make suggestions with confident ease, and the owner himself joined us for a pre-dinner drink. Charming and gracious, Gerard Basset makes his guests feel welcome and the enthusiasm with which he talks about wine is infectious. Despite the numerous accolades he has received, there is nothing stuffy or pompous about him and he met my partner`s lack of knowledge about wine with graciousness and encouraging suggestions.
The restaurant was busy and it seemed many were returning diners, a testament to the relaxed atmosphere and efficiency of service. The open plan restaurant has large windows overlooking the pool and garden, creating an airy ambience. And at one end of the restaurant, lit up like a fairground stall, the wine cellar is housed behind a glass panel.
The food menu is limited, but has meat and fish choices as well as a solitary vegetarian option. My partner opted for a starter of pickled summer vegetables with chickpea mousse and garlic and herb cheese. This was beautifully presented with subtlety of texture. I chose beetroot cued trout with apple and beetroot salad. The striking presentation and depth of colours was matched by the layers of flavour. All was accompanied by a choice of wines that was startling; dazzled by the 24 page wine menu, we bowed to the expertise of Laurent the Sommelier, who chose on our behalf. He didn`t disappoint; samples included a light South African Chardonnay, crisp French white from the Cote de Gascogne region and a contemporary Portuguese contemporary wine that complemented the flavours of the trout salad.
The geographical wine tour continued with the main; my choice of poached breast of guinea fowl with prune and leg stuffing was accompanied by a sublime Australian Shiraz, whilst my partner`s dish of salmon with avocado cream and braised fennel was enhanced by an exquisite Argentinean white wine. Whilst expertly chosen, the wines are not out of reach of the average diner; prices start at as little as £17:00 a bottle. Portions were generous too, my partner was unable to manage a dessert but I opted for the Peach Carpaccio served with a cooling coconut sorbet to refresh the pallet.
After dinner, a stroll to the nearby Gamekeeper pub was a delight, the locals happy to recommend walking and running routes nearby (see www.thenewforest.co.uk for more information on the New Forest).
The Hotel TerraVina is happy to wear its owners’ hearts on its sleeve and the care, attention and passion that has gone into its creation ensures you’ll come away having fallen a little bit in love with it yourself.
For more information on Hotel TerraVina, visit www.hotelterravina.co.uk
Disclosure: For this blog post we were able to gain access to a sample product or service.
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