The Highstreet Kitchen in Lymington is a dream come true for chef and owner Gavin Barnes, who’s passion for Hampshire produce is clear to see on his small but perfectly formed menu. Isle of Wight tomatoes, New Forest vegetables and south coast fish all star in leading roles, with Gavin’s close partnerships with British farms highlighted at every opportunity.

Gavin, who previously ran the kitchen at Hotel Terravina, for those who remember the iconic Woodlands hotel run by the late and great Gerard Bassett OBE and his wife Nina, has yearned for his own restaurant for the past decade. A move to Lymington saw the opportunity to transform the old Pizza Express into a sensational eatery with quaint terrace space for al fresco dining and stunning works from local artists adorning the walls.

Great British Life: The stylish interior reflects the community with work by local artists (c) Elizabeth KirbyThe stylish interior reflects the community with work by local artists (c) Elizabeth Kirby

From the back of the restaurant in an open kitchen, Gavin, together with his son and protégé, combines astounding flavours with obsessive precision. Our starter of mackerel, cucumber and parsley emulsion put the fish centre stage and was perfectly cooked with the most beautiful crispy skin. Gavin changes his menu daily as he moves with the seasons and makes the most of the local produce throughout the year, however, there will always be his classics available to satisfy his loyal and regular customers such as the Rib Eye steak with chips and garlic butter; of which the seared crust gave the most wonderful umami. The fish soup was a triumph too, arriving to the table as a beautiful bowl of south coast fish and Hampshire vegetables, which was then dressed by our server with a silky-smooth pouring of bouillabaisse.

For wine lovers, Gavin’s list reflects his experience working with master of wine, Gerard, with unusual and carefully selected bottles available both in full and by the glass. You will also find some wines from English vineyards, such as Gusbourne in Kent, which we enjoyed as an aperitif.

Finally, Gavin is known in Lymington for his sensational souffle, and we couldn’t leave without ordering our own passionfruit version served with mango sorbet. As soon as it arrived, majestically towering over the ramekin, we could see why the locals love it. Gloriously light, with a bubbly, foamy texture that melted away to leave the sharpness of the passionfruit lingering on the end of your tongue, I’d started to wish we weren’t sharing. ‘If it took this off, I’d get lynched’ joked Gavin. But it’s clear to see his customers mean everything to him and his staff and if you want an evening of traditional service with a modern menu then we urge you to give The Highstreet Kitchen a try.

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