The people putting Milford on Sea on the food and drink map
PUBLISHED: 15:01 13 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:01 13 July 2016
When it comes to destinations for food lovers, Milford on Sea really punches above its weight. Viv Micklefield heads to the seaside village to find out its recipe for success
Take an idyllic village green just a gentle stroll from the foreshore and a friendly community atmosphere among its 5,000 residents, and Milford on Sea instantly sparkles with charm. However, add to this its array of restaurants, coffee shops and pubs and you’ve stumbled upon somewhere that’s pretty special. So who are some of those helping to put Milford on Sea on the map?
A Corker: Jon Crouch, The Cave
Born and bred in Milford on Sea, Jon brings a wealth of experience in hospitality and three years on from ‘coming home’ to take over its former wine shop, he says: “It’s important to offer something a bit different - just because we’re in a village we mustn’t become stuck in a time warp, you need to keep things fresh.”
For The Cave (www.thecavemos.co.uk) this means a 50:50 mix of retail sales and income from the bar, which is particularly popular for pre-dinner drinks. With his ‘incredible customers’ spreading the word about Jon’s latest venture on Church Hill, this he says isn’t like other villages.
“It’s all down to the independent businesses. When you come to Milford on Sea, you instantly see that everyone is happy to be here. It’s become a destination village. I’d say we’re the foodie capital of the New Forest.”
The Alchemist: David Wykes, Verveine
Classically trained David is one of those chefs who never switches-off. “It’s all I do, my head is full of half-finished recipes,” he laughs. Now enjoying his sixth year in Milford on Sea, expect the unexpected at this innovative restaurant (www.verveine.co.uk) whose 30 covers are tucked behind the High Street fishmonger’s shop established back in the 1960s.
“To have people trust you and your food is humbling,” David continues. “I don’t care about fads or fashions - we try and keep things simple and if it’s local that’s brilliant. The fish is the star of the show.”
So the menu might include mackerel served with apple and mustard ice cream, scallops with his signature ‘old chewy’ carrots, or even, “Lobster with white chocolate is a great pairing.”
Here, it’s all about the detail and the ripples of admirers are spreading. “The way we’ve been received here is fantastic,” says David.
Backing British: Sam Hughes, La Perle
Seasonal, local and ethical is his mantra so when chef patron Sam says: “We can get pretty much everything we need on our doorstep,” a feast of Hampshire fare is guaranteed.
Since launching his first solo venture at the High Street restaurant 10 months ago Sam, who trained under Raymond Blanc and previously represented La Perle (www.laperle.co.uk) on TV’s Professional Masterchef, has been busy reconnecting with local suppliers.
“All of our shellfish comes from Lymington and we use three local butchers - while more and more people are bringing local food to us directly - a local gamekeeper supplies our venison.
“Our customers use the restaurant as an extension of their lives and so we become part of the community. This is such a foodie area, we work a lot with South Lawn hotel, and bed and breakfasts send customers our way too. Supporting other local businesses is very important to us, as is employing local staff.”
Café Culture: Christine Quinn, Inger-Lise’s
Even in the gloomiest weather, this Scandi inspired café shines like a beacon in Milford on Sea. “I fell in love with the village. There’s such a community spirit here, I’ve never known a place quite like it,” says Christine, who’s put her own twist on the menu since opting for a career change, and taking over the business (inger-lisescoffeebar.co.uk) in 2010.
With freshly prepared smörgåsbord a house special, salads now also feature, alongside warming soups. And although a full English breakfast might appear a bit of a departure, according to Christine, this has proved a winner with customers.
“We get a lot of day visitors and you have to work that little bit harder to get people to come back. A local lady helps me with the baking of our homemade cakes and I use the greengrocers in the village for some of my ingredients.”
Bistro Chic: Deny Cornette, The Raft
“I wanted to make this more than just a place to eat. It’s important to me that people feel comfortable here as well as getting good food and service,” says former chef Denny who started up this chilled-out village bistro five years ago. He goes on: “Putting a smile of people’s faces is what matters. If they’re happy, then I’m happy.”
And whether you opt for a piping hot pizza, one of the fish specials or The Raft’s ever popular burgers, from breakfast ‘til late the bleached-out décor instantly brings the seaside vibe inside. The garden out back also offers al fresco dining with a shack available for private parties.
“In Milford on Sea we have a good mix for everyone,” observes Denny. “Food Week always brings extra people into the village and this year we put on music and dancing - it’s definitely good to try to challenge ourselves by doing something a bit different.”
Salt of the Earth: Lisa Morgan, Lisa’s Larder
“Our lambs graze the pasture by the sea, it’s the environment and breeding that makes them so special,” says Lisa who together with husband Simeon has been a farmer based at Aubrey Farm, Keyhaven for the past 17 years.
Whilst 2,300 acres of arable crops stretching from Exbury to New Milton demands much of their energy, ‘Lisa’s lamb’ as it’s become known (since she received the first Zwartbles ewes on her 40th birthday), is eagerly anticipated by customers visiting the Hampshire Life award winning farm shop.
“We introduced a pop-up farm shop (lisaslarder.com) in 2012 which opens every four weeks and our Farm Open Days go down well with the local community too.”
Budding Foodies: Matthew Hill, Milford on Sea Primary School
“As a school we want to be at the heart of the local community,” says Matthew. “Everyone likes ketchup and this year, for Food Week, the children worked with Claire Lee from the New Forest’s Spice ‘n’ Easy to develop a special recipe. We then held a competition to design a label before it was sold to local cafés and from our stand at the market.”
With the profits poured back into the school (www.mosps.co.uk), wandering around the outdoor kitchen used by children aged five and upwards, it’s easy to see why food excites these young learners. And, as Matthew points out, the kitchen garden has seen them develop quite a head for business.
“We sell eggs from our own hens as well as produce from the veg patch, and the children are now growing asparagus and sea kale which we’re hoping to supply to local restaurants.”