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December 12 2013 Latest news:
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Little Mere in North Gorley may look quaint and traditional from the outside, but its interior and menu promise fine dining delights
As we neared the Little Mere Restaurant in the picturesque New Forest village of North Gorley, the sun was slowly sinking, casting picturesque shadows across the village green. By the side of the road, ponies, cows and even a couple of donkeys lazily munched on the grass oblivious to their human observers.
This was certainly to be an evening to remember. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a pleasant smile and we sipped our drinks in the conservatory while perusing the menu (which changes every five or six weeks or so).
The choice was varied, approximately six starters, mains and desserts, but eventually we decided upon seared scallops and cream of leek and pea soup to follow our canaps, along with which I chose to try the homemade bread delicious.
For those who have not visited Little Mere previously, the restaurant is just part of a wider set up (tearooms, restaurant and bed and breakfast).
This offers a unique way to cater for all visitors to the New Forest and is obviously very popular. Opened in December 2004 Little Mere is clearly a local favourite and I can see why. Head chef Simon Reed has created a wonderful selection of dishes that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to taste.
Plenty of passion
I chose the fillets of Poole Bay plaice, deep fried in Japanese breadcrumbs and served with smoked chilli jam, while my wife was full of admiration for her pan seared gilt head bream dish with sauted crayfish tails. Again, the presentation of both matched the taste, with flavours swapping places on the palate with every mouthful. All the vegetables were also cooked to perfection, something that a number of restaurants now tend to overlook.
There is clearly a passion for food that comes from the kitchen and the attention to detail of each dish, and the subtle blending of flavours really was a stand out feature of the entire meal. Other main dishes on offer included breast of organic fed chicken; tomato, spinach and goats cheese galette; tournedos of British fillet steak with chasseur sauce or braised Hampshire lamb hot pot.
With the restaurant now starting to fill, the attentive staff helped to create an atmosphere akin to dining with friends. This we both felt was helped by the intimate feel of the restaurant, where clearly those around us were regular diners at Little Mere, perhaps North Gorleys best-kept secret!
Having rested for a short while, it was time to look again at the dessert menu and the choice was no less difficult. Eventually my wifes love of strawberry mousse tian with clotted cream won the day and I couldnt resist the thought of a white chocolate and raspberry ganache tart with savoury raspberries. I have to say that it was simply the most delicious dessert that I have tasted in years, though I could so easily have opted for the mango and passionfruit cheesecake........another weakness!
Manager Nikki Robson can rightly be very proud of Little Mere, which many will have passed without realising the standards of excellence that she and her team have created within. The website suggests that advance bookings are made due to the number of covers available and given the local interest too, I can understand why.
By the time we left after coffees, the animals we had chanced upon on our arrival had all long since retired for the night, but like them well be back to this little oasis in the New Forest.
In truth, I had never heard of North Gorley before, despite being a Hampshire resident for many years, but whether you are looking to finish off a perfect day in the forest or you simply appreciate wonderful food then a visit is a must.
Book your table
Little Mere Restaurant
Tel. 01425 657628