Even on a slightly chilly summer’s evening the drive to Rhinefield House is enough to put you in a marvellous mood.
Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is probably the most dramatic avenue leading to a dining destination in the south: towering trees lining a route of expectation. And then the first glimpse of the hotel itself; quite stunning in the still bright evening sun.
Rhinefield House looks older than it actually is. Built in 1899, the mock gothic stately home was a private residence, but long ago became one of the region’s bestknown and much loved hotels and dining destinations.
Those with a love of fine dining have long known of the Rhinefield’s gorgeous Armada restaurant. Now owners Handpicked Hotels have decided to take the Rhinefield’s conservatory dining venue and quite literally set it up in competition. The former bistro that overlooks the glorious water feature, gardens and fountains of the hotel has been turned into The Grill Room.
For Mrs M and I, the makeover was the chance to enjoy a glass of Pimms on the patio admiring the magnificent views across the Forest, before stepping out of the chilly breeze and into the warming atmosphere of The Grill Room itself.
As we had been promised, the menu has been completely overhauled. Gone are the offerings of pizza and burgers, in their place is an array of selected treats that play heavily on locally-raised or locally-grown produce.
“Obviously, we can’t obtain our avocados and other exotic produce locally, but otherwise all of our food for The Grill Room will be sourced in Hampshire,” we were informed by General Manager Jonathan Owen.
“We wanted to create somewhere that would offer fine dining in the form of good steaks, good fish dishes and other local produce, well presented in an enjoyable atmosphere.”
Had they succeeded?
Mrs M and I loved the menu, which is always a good start.
Starters offered pacific oysters, foraged herb salad, oak smoked salmon, skewered lamb sweetbread pomegranate, and wild and field mushroom soup.
It was the latter Mrs M plumped for, which came with white truffle oil (£9).
She pronounced it wonderful, and from the spoonful she shared with me – begrudgingly I might add – I had to agree.
I went for the crab and avocado cocktail with sweetcorn ice cream (£9). It was very filling and, although I had initial doubts, I was won over by the addition of the unusual ice cream.
For mains there was a good but not overly large selection of fare. English rose veal cutlet with sea urchin and wasabi butter vied with roast quail breasts with confit leg croustade. Other offerings included Dexter beef pasty with blue vinney cheese and woodland mushrooms, or seafood casserole for two.
Other sharing dishes were herb-crusted rack of Hampshire lamb and a marvellous Chateaubriand of Hampshire Angus that we saw other diners wolfing down.
Mrs M and I went for a fish and beef split. Whole lemon sole (£18) was her choice, which came with shallots, leeks white wine, button mushrooms, soft herbs and cream. It was, again, very substantial and beautifully presented. The fish melted off the bone.
I decided on a good steak, and chose a Beaulieu Dexter sirloin (£28). The Dexter are pedigrees and sourced from the Hatchett Herd based at a holding just five miles from Rhinefield House. The small cattle are raised in a slow, natural manner and fed on a grass based diet giving the beef its succulent flavour, I was informed on the menu.
My sirloin came with triple cooked chips, French beans and café de Paris butter. It was glorious.
For puds I’m afraid Mrs M gave up trying – so filling were her other courses – but I was torn between the warm truffled Monks Folly cheese with apple jelly and a good old rum baba (£8.50).
My childhood called and the rum baba won. Hoorah!
We had enjoyed a glass of Argentinian Malbec with the meal from the decent wine selection.
The Grill Room offers superb food, we decided, at prices to match the venue and setting.
The light was fading as we left, but we made a note to ensure we returned to The Grill Room soon.
The Grill Room,