Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, with its giant redwood trees, azaleas and rhododendrons makes for an impressive entrance. As you approach the house with its crenellated parapet and clusters of chimneys you get a sense of Hampton Court but on a smaller scale.
Some miles south of the road that heads from Southampton to Bournemouth, Rhinefield House is well situated for visiting the many attractions of the region: Beaulieu Motor Museum, Broadlands, Brockenhurst, Lyndhurst and the New Forest Reptile Centre. Wellies, of all sizes in the hotel porch, are a reminder that walks through a tranquil countryside of ancient trees, bracken, ponies and running stream are one of the best ways of exploring. Alternatively, you can take a short drive to New Milton‘s long and relatively quiet beach.
Under 90 miles from London, Rhinefield House is an ideal base for a luxurious weekend break or a week’s holiday. Originally the house was built in 1887 in a style combining Tudor and Gothic elements. Owner Mabel Walker-Munro was a long way from her family’s colliery in Nottinghamshire. Coal funded the beautiful formal gardens, playing fountains and acres of well-cared for woodland.
Stepping into the dark wood-panelled walls of reception takes you back to the era of the great aristocratic house. Although the Armada Restaurant with its chandeliers, wood panelling and massive fire-place is the largest room, the Alhambra private dining room is extravagantly the most ornate room. It is lavishly modelled on Granada’s exotic Alhambra.
There 48 rooms in the West Wing, an extension built in the style of the main house which houses two suites. Although design and furnishings are contemporary, a colour scheme of forest greens and browns continues the theme of the forest into the interiors. The rooms have the Wi-fi, air-conditioning and minor fridge (with fresh milk) that you would expect from a 4* Hotel. Close-up gilded photographs of the forest’s leaves and flowers continually reminds you of your location in the New Forest.
Rhinefield House is a Handpicked Hotel, a small group of hotels each with their own individual identity but sharing common high standards. Superb service in the restaurant, with patient explanation of the options, and swift delivery, typified the very best of Handpicked Hotels.
The Armada restaurant menu has a distinctly local menu. William the Conqueror who established the New Forest around 1079, so that he could have accessible hunting from his capital in Winchester, would recognise many of the items on the menu but not the creative finesse with which they are finished.
With many guests booking in for a week there are currently 11 choices for starters and 10 for the main meal. Traditional meets contemporary with a twist. Roast parsnip soup comes with coconut and lime, whilst roast wood pigeon is accompanied by burnt celeriac and artichoke crisps.
Moving onto the main course an artichoke and aubergine tart plus roar carrots contrast superbly with a rich loin of venison. The chef’s decision that violet potatoes, roast fennel and clam chowder plus samphire compliment herb roast hake perfectly cannot be faulted.
Although there are plenty of dessert classics – chocolate mousse, vanilla creme brûlée, rhubarb meringue and a massive board of local cheeses – I decided to opt for the treacle tart with clotted-cream ice-cream on the grounds that I last tasted treacle tart circa 1978. It proved to be well-worth waiting for.
It can prove difficult to pull yourself away from Rhinefield, comfortably nestled in The New Forest. On the idyllic site there is a small spa with two treatment rooms, gym and sauna. In summer there are outdoor loungers by pool, croquet and giant dominos on the lawn.
Find out more at www.handpickedhotels.co.uk/rhinefieldhouseLast modified: April 7, 2021