Traditional food and local produce go hand in hand at Tyrrells Ford Country Inn and Hotel.

One of two head chefs at the Avon venue, Billy Thompson has been a passionate supporter of the New Forest Marque – a banner encompassing a number of local producers – for a decade.

He first worked in the area with Fuller’s Brewery, which sponsored the New Forest Marque, before progressing to head chef at the White Buck at Burley, and then joining Tyrrells Ford three years ago.

The traditional hotel and restaurant, nestled in a peaceful location in the heart of the beautiful Avon countryside, gives Billy, 53, the chance to practice what he preaches.

With a focus on traditional food with a twist, Billy ensures the bulk of the menu, and the specials on offer, are changed weekly and puts together a selection of simple, yet hugely popular dishes, according to the ingredients available at the time.

“In the forest there are local ingredients right on your doorstep,” he explained.

“We like to use fresh fish and we get all our fruit from Sopley Farm, which is just down the road.”

But the cold and wet conditions this year have meant Billy has been faced with something of a challenge when it comes to menu planning.

“All the asparagus, all the potatoes are under water at the moment,” he said.

“All the berries are not going to do much this year, they’re soaking wet. We just change the menu, but it does present a challenge finding other stuff. We start putting different specials on and going to other suppliers, but we always adapt.”

Billy ensures every one of his team has a say in creating the food at Tyrrells Ford. But he also looks outside the kitchen for inspiration.

“We talk to people as well and see what they want,” he said.

“It’s not all about me. We ask people what they want. They might try something at home. If we’ve got the ingredients here we will give it a go and see what it’s like.”

Billy is now focusing his attention on developing the restaurant’s table d’hote menu, as well as adapting the food on offer for the summer season.

“We need to adapt to the tourist trade,” he explained.

“We still use local ingredients, but we get a lot of families, so we need a lot of quick food.

“We use local mince for lasagnes and cottage pies, still in keeping with the theme. You just have to go with what people want.

“It’s just nice, simple food which we adapt to every time of the year.”

Signature dish: Sea Bass with Capers and Samphire Grass

Dip sea bass fillets, skin on, into flour seasoned with a sprinkle of paprika, then fry in melted butter for a minute each side – skin side down first to make sure the skin is nice and crispy.

Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Take out of the pan and place under the grill to keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

Add some samphire grass and capers to the hot butter and pan fry for a couple of minutes.

Place the samphire on the plate, top with the sea bass and finish with a drizzle of lemon dressing.

Serve with potatoes and seasonal vegetables.