It was, my colleague assured me, quite the best pub lunch he had enjoyed – ever. Fair enough. We had both just enjoyed a quite marvellous treat – good food, freshly cooked, sourced locally, and at a fair price.

There was little more we could ask for. Of course The Drift Inn near Beaulieu in the New Forest has a lot more to offer than just a fantastic pub lunch.

Set next to the Beaulieu Hotel close to the little local rail station, The Drift Inn is an ideal spot for those seeking to stretch their legs as well as their tummy muscles.

The pub is at the heart of walking country in the Forest, and indeed staff are more than happy to assist with advice on local routes to amble, either before or after enjoying a meal.

Although the pub itself has stood for some time – starting life as a bar and stables – it underwent a marvellously sympathetic renovation last November. Today the pub is warming and welcoming to visitors who take the short drive along the Beaulieu Road from Lyndhurst town centre. Roaring log fires make certain of a warming welcome for ramblers, tourists, families and couples all seeking a true slice of New Forest comfort.

A new play area for children and a pool room for the not so young add to the lovely family-feel about the place.

“Dogs, Kids and Wellies” is one way the staff sum up their family-friendly welcome by day, but of an evening the pub is buzzing as locals mingle with visitors sampling the fine array of beers, wines and of course the food.

So let’s turn to the food itself.

The promise is of home cooked food, locally sourced wherever possible, with the freshest of ingredients. The reality doesn’t disappoint.

Head chef Lee Burden has created a superb menu of hearty favourites, sandwiches, sharing platters and warm salads and ploughman’s dishes with an imaginative twist yet comforting recognisable feel.

Starters include rustic pork pate with chutney, BBQ belly pork, salmon and haddock fishcakes or, my choice, bubble and squeak served with a hen’s egg and fantastic mushroom sauce to die for.

Heartier Dishes (their title) include a sumptuous steak, kidney and Ringwood Old Thumper pie, a tremendous beef chilli (my colleague’s choice and he was glowing with warmth and praise), New Forest sirloin steak, bubble and squeak burger or fish in Ringwood beer batter and chips. I plumped for a trio of New Forest sausages with mash in onion gravy. Fantastic.

Room for pud after all that? You bet. Especially when the list included a bloomin’ marvellous white chocolate bread and butter pudding – how could a man resist? With custard it was tremendous, as was, I was assured, the apple crumble, the choice of him sitting opposite.

There are plenty of snacks to choose from also, from ciabattas to doorstep sandwiches, and watch out for the specials board delights. And there are special themed nights to look out for: sausage night, pie night, fish night and steak night.

And don’t forget traditional Sunday roasts every weekend.

Now there’s a list long enough to keep you drifting back… Three-course lunch for two without drinks came to around £40.

Drift Inn, Beaulieu Road, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, New Forest, Hampshire, SO42 7YQ. Tel. 023 8029 2342.