My Top Ten Things To See And Do At Exbury Gardens

Take Sensible Shoes, Wear Fabulous Sunglasses…

The New Forest is one of my favourite places on earth, and Exbury Gardens is one of the jewels in its crown. Situated on the banks of the Beaulieu River, and part of the breathtaking Exbury Estate, the gardens are open to the public from March until November. Whether you’re a local or you’re visiting the area on holiday, I’d definitely recommend you stop by to see one of the most spectacular collections of its type in the country.

You could spend all day at Exbury and not see everything (believe me, as this is from personal experience!), so I decided to put together a list of my top ten things to see and do there, so you don’t miss out on some of my favourite parts of our visit! (Please note, the gardens are ever changing, and different varieties will bloom in different months of the year.)

1. Take The Train

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Restaurant Review: Boulangerie Victor Hugo Southampton

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When my friend told me a new French cafe had opened in town, I had to rush down there as soon as possible to test it out! Boulangerie Victor Hugo (or BVH, if you’re going to be cool about it) is located down town, past the Bargate and just past Zen and La Lupa.

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Lunch at The Ivy

It’s been my ambition for a long time to be able to eat at some of London’s most famous and established restaurants. I had my hen party at The Ritz and am plotting breakfast at The Wolseley, but before all that, I decided to cash in my Valentine’s day treat for lunch at The Ivy.

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Not as exclusive or trendy as it was in its heyday, it’s still an amazing place to eat, and if you choose wisely, not as expensive as you would think!

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The menu is full of old English and French classics – it’s not a particularly innovative menu, but then, that’s not why you go to The Ivy. You go to soak up the atmosphere and to sup in the same restaurant as countless celebrities like Noel Coward, Vivian Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, and more recently Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, the Beckhams, etc. These days, though, these celebs have migrated to The Club at The Ivy, which is a private area that requires membership to enter, leaving the main dining area relatively celeb-free.

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So, you’ll have to content yourself with the food itself – solid, unsurprising fare that is incredibly delicious and reasonably priced.

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I started with the seared foie gras – beautifully tender on top of a sheet of delicate pastry with a sugary crunch to it. The rich jus and sharp cherries were the perfect accompaniments. My husband had the leek soup, which was poured from a mini saucepan into a bowl already full of the toppings. It was delicious, smooth and creamy.

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My main course was the confit of duck – it was certainly skilfully cooked, although a bit gamier than I’m used to. The potatoes were the highlight for me – cooked with onions, butter and parsley. I also shared some green beans and bacon with my husband, who ordered sausages and mash. This, again, was an exceptional example of a much-loved classic.

Dessert was the thing I was most looking forward to – Scandinavian iced berries. They were as delicious as I expected them to be – an assortment of wild, frozen berries topped with a gorgeously decadent hot white chocolate sauce at the last moment.

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My husband opted for the creme brûlée – studded with vanilla seeds, it was rich and light at the same time!

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Despite its fearsome reputation, I didn’t dress up for my visit – I just wore a cute striped jumper from Joules that I’d bought in Cornwall and a pair of black jeans. As this was lunch time, most people were dressed casually, although a few large groups were dressed to the nines and I lost count of the number of red Louboutins I saw flashing their way across the wooden floor!

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If you’re after a meal to remember, I wouldn’t pick The Ivy as my first choice. But as far as boast factor goes, it’s pretty high up on the list, and I think the menu is very well executed. And so it should be, considering it’s full of much-loved, traditional dishes!

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You can book a visit to The Ivy online at www.the-ivy.co.uk

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