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Where to eat in Lymington, Hampshire

Head to this Hampshire market town for centuries-old pubs and farmers’ markets, plus delicious seafood fresh off the boat.

By Pheobe Hunt
Published 8 Jun 2022, 06:03 BST
The market town of Lymington is spoiled for produce from both land and sea.

The market town of Lymington is spoiled for produce from both land and sea.

Photograph by Alamy

Squeezed between the Solent and the New Forest, the market town of Lymington is spoiled for produce from both land and sea. Crab straight from the boat, New Forest venison, tomatoes from the Isle of Wight just across the water — you’ll find it all here. And on a walk along the sea wall, foragers might come across sea purslane, winkles and crab apples.

In July each year, the town hosts the Lymington Seafood Festival, offering three days of live music, oyster shucking and more — but food is a year-round preoccupation here. On the quayside, freshly caught fish is sold to wholesalers, while on the High Street, Lymington Charter Market has taken place since the 13th century. Each Saturday, you’ll find the road lined with stalls selling everything from locally made cheeses and conserves to crafts and clothes.

For a fine-dining taste of the area, join the steady stream of both locals and visitors tucking into the daily-changing tasting menu at The Elderflower. Established in 2014 by London exiles Andrew and Marjolaine Du Bourg, this Michelin-listed restaurant serves creative dishes that “depend on what Kevin the fisherman brings,” according to Andrew. “It might be turbot, red mullet, skate, sole or squid on any given day.” For dessert, meanwhile, the chocolate cigar with smoked vanilla ash and whiskey is a firm favourite.

Further along ‘the Cobbles’, as locals describe Quay Hill’s 330ft stretch of pretty pastel shops, you’ll find gourmet crab sandwiches from Seafayre Seafoods, as well as places to pick up a pasty or book a yacht charter. At the bottom of the hill, on the quayside, Coffee & Drift is a casual lunch spot serving buddha bowls, homemade sourdough toasties and its own blend of ethically sourced coffee. The independently owned cafe also serves excellent vegan breakfasts.

Just next door, Humbug (1 Quay Street) is the stuff of childhood fantasies — a vintage-style sweet shop packed with glass jars of gobstoppers and peanut brittle, pink shrimps and chocolate limes. Run by husband-and-wife team John and Dawn Dowland, Humbug sells sweets by the gram, as well as serving scoops of New Forest Ice Cream in waffle cones.

As evening approaches, seek out The Yard at Guy Kremer and ring the doorbell to enter. “We’re tucked down an alleyway and try to create a bit of a speakeasy vibe,” say lifelong friends Tai Stanley and Charlotte Day, who have been running this boho spot for three years. They offer poke bowls made using fresh-off-the-boat fish, as well as local charcuterie, dressed crab and Asian-inspired soups.

Just outside town, you’ll find the Fleur de Lys, the oldest surviving pub in the New Forest, where pints have been pulled for almost 1,000 years. Old-school interiors (low beams, brick walls) sit beneath the huge thatched roof, and the kitchen churns out daily specials, which might include venison bonbons or beef shin slow cooked in ale. In winter, cosy up by the blazing log fire, and on warmer days, soak up the sun in the garden.

How to do it: Travelling by train from London Waterloo to Lymington Town, changing at Brockenhurst, takes just under two hours. Southampton and Bournemouth are both less than 40 minutes away by train, also via Brockenhurst. The Monkey Brewhouse, an 18th-century brewpub, has double rooms from £80, B&B. 

Published in the May 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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