Heckfield Place, Hampshire

Ask a Hampshire local (Hey, Dad!) and they’ll tell you Heckfield Place has been a long time comin’. Five years in fact. It’s easy to see what’s taken so long when you drive through the manned front gate, up the winding path through the forest and arrive at the Georgian mansion facade. It’s a looker.

The website is full of twoddle like “THE GROUNDS ARE BOUND INTO THE MOVEMENT AND RHYTHMS OF NATURE” and “RESOLUTELY NATURAL, ELEGANTLY EVOLVING” but don’t let that put you off; this new hotel and restaurant is well worth a visit.

Inside, it’s minimalist plush – my words not theirs. There are plants galore. Tables are elegantly laid with a gourd centrepiece. There’s a terrace which overlooks the grounds and lake in the distance. We enjoy a pre-lunch gin and tonic there. Peaceful it sure is.

In charge of the kitchen is Skye Gyngell of famed Spring, so you know the food is going to be good. And it is. But it might need a while to settle in.

My starter of tagliolini with slow cooked broccoli and anchovy (£16) is a winter warmer. Perfect for the colder weather we’re getting. It’s a hug on a plate. But there’s no heat from the dried chilli which is a shame.

Grilled lamb with green tomatoes (£31) is brought alive with a big dollop of horseradish. Lamb and horseradish are great bedfellows, FYI. But the lamb is just a touch overdone and it could do with a nice strip of fat.

A side of crispy potatoes with black garlic vinaigrette (£8) certainly lives up to its description; those bad boys are crisp, crisp, crisp. The blend of potato, black garlic and sour cream with soft herbs is dreamy.

For dessert, bitter chocolate and caramel tart (£9) is a glorious thing. Clearly made by someone who loves eating puds as it’s a textural delight; gooey/chewy/soft/crumbly. Walnut and honey ice cream (£8) is less successful however. It has the texture of curdled frozen cream.

Sure, there were a few inconsistencies with the food at Heckfield Place. You could argue for the dollar they’re charging you’d expect faultlessness. But for a new opening, while they find their feet, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. I’m sure it will get better and better…

Would we go back? For a special occasion: Yes

We paid for our meal in full