In the beautiful and tranquil national park The New Forest , there are many choices of places to stop for a meal. Most places are either gastro-pubs, or restaurants attached to hotels. One of these restaurants is the Stag Restaurant, the restaurant within New Park Manor Hotel.
When my husband and I walked into The Stag Restaurant recently , our first impression was actually quite favorable. We were offered pre-dinner drinks and canapés in the lounge, and then escorted to our seats in the dining room. There were many inviting aspects to the room, including the wood paneling, beamed ceilings, and fireplace. There were a few small problems with the appearance (very creased tablecloths and tacky cheap prints on the wall, for example), but we were willing to forgive them for the overall atmosphere.
The menu looked appetizing and promised fine dining (rather than standard pub or hotel fare). It was simply but well presented on high quality paper.
For the starter, some of the options included scallops, a terrine, and a salad. My table ordered the wood pigeon breast served with truffle gnocchi and liquorice poached pear. The presentation of the dish was lovely, and the flavors were good. The liquorice added an unexpected yet fitting element to the dish. However, my husband bit down on something hard in the pigeon. The bird shot had been left in the bird when it was prepared. After finishing, we explained to the waitress that we had enjoyed the starter, but showed her the bird shot that had been pulled out of the dish. Obviously we were concerned as someone could easily choke or break a tooth on ammunition within the dish.
The waitress, however, stated abruptly, “Yes, it used to be alive.” I found her response shocking.
For the main, options included game, fowl, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. My table ordered the seared fillet of wild sea bass with smoked haddock brandade, buttered curly kale and cockle chowder. The flavors and textures of the dish were good. The chowder was excellent, but I wished there had been more of it rather than just using it to garnish the plate. However, the fish had not been properly de-boned. In fact, a piece of fish bone got stuck in someone’s throat! (Luckily they were able to dislodge it after a few painful minutes.)
After the mistakes in the first two dishes, we hoped that the dessert would redeem the meal. We ordered the cinder toffee parfait with Swiss milk chocolate mousse and salted caramel peanuts. Although the concept of this dish was good, the execution was lacking. For example, there was no true toffee on the plate, and the caramel just wasn’t quite right.
We were hopeful for a great dining experience, and would have happily forgiven the mistakes in the dishes with good service. However, the service was the biggest disappointment. Our main waitress/server was rude to the point of sarcasm to us when we commented on dishes. Even when we said complimentary things, she was very brusque. Eventually we simply got the impression that she didn’t like us. She (and other servers) would walk into the dining room and look around. Then they would walk out again, avoiding eye contact and seeming intent to ignore anyone who needed service (for example refills on drinks). After dinner we were just ignored and left on our own until we finally got up to leave and found someone ourselves.
I really wanted to like this restaurant. It should have been good. However, the poor service and lack of attention to detail in the food spoiled the evening. At this point I could not recommend this restaurant to other diners looking for a good meal in the New Forest in southern England.