“ 174 Woodlands Road / Woodlands / Netley Marsh / New Forest / Southampton SO40 7GL / Hampshire „
For our special occasions we always try to seek out somewhere new to try, and to hell with the expense. In fact, many of those we have found have turned out to be exceptional value for money and most I have reviewed here, if you are looking for recommendations. For our anniversary I always try seek out either a restaurant with accommodation or a hotel with a well recommended restaurant. In the case of our most recent, it was the latter. Hampshire seems to have more than its fair share of good hotel/restaurants and Hotel Terravina would seem to be another of them. Not that it is perfect though, as you will see from our experiences. However, overall it turned out to be a more than satisfactory place for us to celebrate our anniversary. The hotel is situated in the New Forest though not in the heart of the forest, more on the outskirts, so to speak, in Woodlands, which is about half-way between Southampton and Lyndhurst. It isn't difficult to find though, although I had the advantage of having entered the postcode into Nokia Maps GPS on my mobile. It actually told me we had arrived about 100m short of our actual destination. The hotel is owned by Gerard and Nina Basset. Gerard has won the title of "Best Sommelier in the World", so we were expecting that the wine cellar would be impressive but pricey. He is also a co-founder of the Hotel du Vin Group. They took over the hotel in 2007 and set about turning it into a hotel of which they could be proud. On arrival, the evidence of the work that they have put in is obvious. When we arrived we were able to park our car in the shade, which, bearing in mind the weather (hot, sunny) was good thing; there is extensive parking available. Entrance is through what is probably the original main entrance but here we were surprised to find the "Reception" somewhat out-of-keeping with the appearance of the rest of the hotel: a simple office style desk, covered in a mess of paperwork, computers and printers; not exactly a professional image! However, the welcome could not have been warmer. We were issued with the key to our room but then discovered there was no lift, just a steep climb up a spiral staircase to the first floor. Lucky we didn't have more luggage! We were in Canteiro which, from the high ceiling and the huge window partly overlooking the garden, I assume is part of the original building. The window is old style sash but supplemented with internal secondary windows to provide some insulation. Sadly, all the windows had been limited in their ability to be opened so we had to make do with just the cracks for ventilation, not that the room was uncomfortably hot; it just would have been nice! The actual bedroom was very large, as was the bed. A wardrobe was just inside the door, with a full-length mirror fitted to its side, which was odd as you had to stand behind the door to use it, so risking being hit by the door opening! The other odd thing was the size of the one and only table in the room. This was located next to the door to the en suite bathroom, between it and the window. Above it a TV was bolted to the wall. The problem was the size of the table: it really was far too small and, in the space provided, could have been half as big again without any problem. As it was, trying to use it as a dressing table and somewhere to have a brew was pretty well impossible. This was not helped by the shear size of the lamp that stood on the table as well! The TV located above also made it very difficult to use a mirror, which my wife wanted to in order to do her make-up. All in all, this was probably the worst feature of the room and really does need to be changed. Otherwise, the room was very comfortable, with a small sofa at the end of the bed and another set in a small alcove opposite the bathroom. The bathroom itself was very nice, with a free-standing old-fashioned bath and a large walk-in shower occupying the width of the end of the room. Both of the rooms were very tastefully decorated and we enjoyed a very comfortable stay and a good night's sleep. But, we were mostly here for the food; the room was just so that we wouldn't have to worry about how we were going to get home afterwards. The restaurant is on the ground floor, past Reception and overlooking the garden though a wall of French Windows which, when open allow you out onto a covered veranda. The windows were closed on our visit as the evening was a bit cool for eating outside but I suspect that, had the weather been suitable, it would have been extremely enjoyable; I do like eating outdoors. However, we did have a seat right by the windows. We consulted the food and wine menus and the first thing I found was a wine that I didn't even know existed: a white Irouleguy, from the French Basque region of the Pyrenees. The red I have had many times; it's one of my all-time favourite wine styles. This had to be tried. The wine came from a producer by the name of Arretxea. It was superb, a little like a really top quality Voigner, such as Condrieu. I will be watching out for this again. We decided on the seafood with a starter of scallops and smoked trout and a main course of sea bream. Both were cooked and served perfectly and tasted delicious. The wine turned out to be a perfect accompaniment. Throughout, the service was just as I like it, attentive but not intrusive. After our meal we retired to the bar for nightcaps. I enjoy malt whiskies and they certainly had a good selection. I also examined the gins and, as expected, failed to find my favourites, Dutch Gins, especially Bols Oude Genever. Failing to find that I then looked for vodkas, never really expecting to find what I consider the World's Best Vodka - Schramm - which I've yet to find anywhere outside of Canada. In the end I settled for a Lagavulin whilst my wife had her customary black coffee. So, what's the verdict? Well, overall we did enjoy or stay and our celebration. Yes, at just under £400, it was expensive but then I wasn't expecting it to be cheap. You don't skimp on special occasions. Bear in mind though that the major part of the cost was the B&B, at £215. If that's all it was it would have been considered OTT. For this amount it would not represent good value for money. The drinks came to over £60 and, of this, the largest part was the wine. However, bearing in mind the "tasters" that we had at the bar whilst discussing the finer points of vodka and gin with the bartender, I suppose that there, we got good value for money. Would we return? Only for another special occasion and even then, probably not. There are lots of other hotel/restaurants that we have visited (and reviewed here) that offer every bit as good an experience at a far more reasonable price. However, as a once-in-a-lifetime treat, I certainly can recommend Hotel Terravina. Abridged version posted on TripAdvisor.