|Sweet cure brisket and smoked Loch Duart salmon|
The grounds, conservatory and bar are all fantastic places to while away a few hours, along with a number of discreet drawing rooms. The hotel also has a health spa, a serious restaurant and a helipad.
After a chance conversation with one of the staff about the smoked salmon and brisket cured on the premises, we find ourselves being shown the smokehouse by head chef, Luke Holder.
This is a kind of rustic, 'Little House in the Prairie' hut where Luke has been experimenting for the last couple of years with legs of pork, making Pata Negra style ham (he imported one from Spain to "infect" his native pork with the right kind of mould). These take around 14 months to cure, and hang from poles either side of the smoker, surrounded by racks of red-wine steeped bresaola, brisket, chorizo and salami.
|Brisket, copa, cured pork fillet|
Luke is pretty honest about the pitfalls of curing. A rogue fly can spoil months of work, a fire in the smokehouse destroy many sides of salmon and half the building. However, he is a man with a mission, reflecting that The British Empire was founded on sending fleets of men with enough dried and cured provisions to quell the natives and erect the Union Jack on foreign lands (I did say this place was like Downton Abbey). We have lost those old skills, unlike the Italians and Spanish who have built multi-million pound businesses from Parma Ham, Serrano, Pata Negra and salami. In the same way as British beer, bread and cheese have been transformed, Luke envisions a brave new world in which a British artisan charcuterie tradition can take its place on an equal footing with the giants of Europe.
|Hampshire Chorizo and Bresaola|
Leaving the smokehouse with some troubleshooting tips for home bacon curing we repair to the drawing room and ring for tea... Carson is a long time coming.
|Lime Wood Hotel, New Forest|