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If you go down to the woods today…You Magazine, Mail on Sunday

Mouthwatering wines are on the menu at a new hotel where, in fine weather, you can eat outside and, from the corner of your eye, glimpse the alluring pool.

You can’t quite imagine what Hotel TerraVina will be like as you drive to it through the edge of the New Forest. Suddenly you’ve left the anonymous suburbs behind and entered a very individual hideaway.

Walk into the handsome Victorian house and the first thing you see is a polished metal staircase floating sinuously up on your left. On the ground floor is the elegant lounge and a private dining room flanked by the bar, with its array of serious-looking whiskies and eaux de vie. Walk a little further and you’re in the dining room which has an open kitchen and enormous verandah looking on to a lovely lawn and garden and, beyond, the pool.

It is possible to explore the New Forest without leaving the car. We found the famous ponies lining the sides of the roads and cows obligingly gathered in one picturesque place as they waited for the summons to the milking parlour. There is plenty to do around here even if you’re not desperate to see the great motorcar museum at Beaulieu. Southampton, Salisbury and Winchester are only a half-hour’s drive distant. However, a spot of exploration on foot might be in order as a preparation for lunch or dinner. Certainly you may not want to get into your car straight afterwards – TerraVina is owned by the award-winning sommelier Gérard Basset and his wife Nina (pictured right) and, as you’d expect, the wine list is very tempting and full of generous bargains. Much wiser (and nicer) to arrange a stay, and retire to one of the 11 gorgeous bedrooms, each one different, with state-of-the-art TV, DVD, wi-fi connection, espresso machine and great comfy beds.

As a Master of Wine, Gérard is committed to serving only the best wine of its type, which means that he has big stocks of wonderful (and often good value) clarets and burgundies, as well as fascinating bottles from all over the world (we tried a terrifically zippy Austrian grüner veltliner and some magic Greek muscat pudding wine). There is also a choice of eight interesting wines available by the glass from the nitrogen-blanket gadget that keeps each daisy-fresh.

The food at Hotel TerraVina is unfussy but accomplished, using the best local and organic suppliers Nina and Gérard can find. We’d happily eat everything we had again and again, even a dish as obvious as steak and chips, consisting of char-grilled rib-eye of beef unusually well-aged and marbled, and satisfyingly crisp, crunchy fries.

Puddings are heavenly. Ice creams are a house speciality, made on the spot, and the flavours change every day. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to visit when chef does coffee-brazil nut ice cream, but the ginger’s wonderful, the almond divine and chocolate and honeycomb truly celestial.

 
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