Hartnett Holder & co, restaurant review: The halibut looked as if it had spent 45 minutes under a sun lamp

Hartnett Holder & Co, Lime Wood Hotel Beaulieu Road Lyndhurst, Hampshire (02380 287167)

Both the name and the concept suggest a pop supergroup of the 1970s: Angela Hartnett, the doyenne of posh Michelin-star cooking – who's her rock'n'roll equivalent? Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders? – linking up with Luke Holder, the bearded, down-to-earth purveyor of gutsy Italian grub (Mick Jones of The Clash?) to form a classy but no-nonsense hybrid (Blind Faith? The Good, the Bad and the Queen?) in rural Hampshire.

Holder (who is, as far as I know, no relation to Noddy from Slade) learnt his trade at London's Sloane Club and Oxo Tower before legging it to Tuscany for a year to learn the dark arts of Florentine cuisine at the three-Michelin-star Enoteca Pinchiorri in Tuscany. He returned to run the Lime Wood, a Georgian country house (and sister to The Pig Hotel in Brockenhurst) renovated at vast expense in 2008. Ms Hartnett, I hardly need remind you, once played second fiddle to Gordon Ramsay at Aubergine, then to Marcus Wareing at Pétrus, before she took over lead guitar duties (perhaps I should drop this metaphor) and opened two successful Mayfair venues, Murano and Café Murano. The pair announced their joint album, so to speak, a year ago.

The hotel is a fine sight, although the owners seem unsure whether to stress the place's antiquity or glossy newness. There's a venerable smokery half-sunk in the earth beside an oak tree – but the view is dominated by a Godzilla-sized metal fish on the hillside. Inside, all is luxury. The bar, an enclosed, glass-ceilinged courtyard, is all cushiony pastels; it's like being inside a box of Ladurée macarons. The dining-room is wonderfully cosy, full of 18th-century touches: wooden tables and button-back armchairs surround a horseshoe bar. A magnificent carvery dome houses the cheese. Huge HMS Bounty coach lamps hang overhead. On the banquettes, bolster cushions separate the diners (a nice touch), the floors are wood-blocked and the walls festooned with monochrome art. It's amazingly comfortable and the all-male staff (who all resemble variants of Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield) are charmingly attentive.

The menu promises several Italian treats, such as ribollita, that thick bread-soup introduced to English palates by the River Café, and agnolotti, pasta parcels enclosing pappa al pomodoro e basil. They were fabulously al dente and fresh, as if tomatoes and basil were picked just minutes before. I tried a selection of the smokehouse's greatest hits, and relished the rosemary cured pork loin, smoked salmon with caperberries, fennel salami and homemade chorizo. But the star was coda uova affumicato – smoked cod roe with radish served on rye biscuits. It was astoundingly creamy and taramasalata-ish, the roes whipped up with vegetable oil, fennel and crème fraîche before being given a gritting of pork crackling. Fish cream and pigskin together – who thought that might work out? Was it Angela? Was it Noddy – sorry, Luke? Did they kid around for a while ("Luke! What are you like?") before deciding, oh go on then, let's put it on the menu?

Main course included fillet of beef for two with Jerusalem artichoke ragout (£80), turbot with preserved lemon for two (£65), and pot-roasted Capriole goat for two (£45 – does it really matter where the goat comes from?). My wife's halibut was a beautiful tranche that looked as if had spent 45 minutes under a sun lamp. It was served on a caponata of smoked aubergine, bizarrely arrayed with pine nuts and raisins. "It's cooked just fine," she said, "but it's been over-complicated with sweet-and-sour extras." I had to agree.

My short saddle of hogget, or year-old lamb, was a medium-rare delight, thin-sliced and meltingly tender, served on a bed of artichoke, celery and cauliflower, plus a smidgen of lardo, without which no Tuscan dish is complete. Side-order sautéed pink fir potatoes were overcooked but wonderfully crunchy, though spinach and taleggio weren't the happiest of partners. "I wanted something green," wailed Angie, "not something-green-with-cream-cheese-in-it."

From several predictable puddings (crème caramel, affogato, cantucci with vin santo) one stood out: millefeuille with apple and calvados. It was a brilliantly-constructed fortress of puff pastry that shattered at the touch and yielded up its fruity secret: it was made with sweet apple sauce at the base and tart slices of Granny Smith up above. Such finesse! And served with a glass of sweet Dowie Doole viognier from my favourite McLaren Vale vineyard.

Hartnett Holder & Co may have one or two musical differences (like about how many accessories you need on a main-course plate) but they're a supergroup who've produced a real winner in the heart of the New Forest. I hope it's a long-player. (That's enough music metaphors – Ed).

Food ****
Ambience *****
Service ****

Hartnett Holder & Co, Lime Wood Hotel Beaulieu Road Lyndhurst, Hampshire (02380 287167). Around £140 for two, with cocktails and wine

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager - Holiday Homes - £100,000 OTE

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + £100,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: Birmingham, Derby, L...

    Investigo: Finance Manager - Global Leisure Business

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...

    Investigo: Senior Finance Analyst - Global Leisure Business

    £45000 - £52000 per annum + bonus+bens : Investigo: My client, a global leader...

    Investigo: Financial reporting Accountant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?