I trust very few people when they tell me if a restaurant is good or bad. All of these select people went to The White Hart (after its recent reopening) before I’d had a chance and to say they were less than impressed would be somewhat of an understatement. However, I have learnt recently that a poor first experience is not always a fair representation of a restaurant although, to be honest, why should you put up with a poor experience when you’re paying for it? That’s another matter.
I decided that I would give the White Hart a go and that it wasn’t fair to dismiss this restaurant based on other people’s experiences; despite one set of the aforementioned diners actually walking out before the meal was even served. It was very important to me that my views were not tainted by the experience of everyone else so I went in fully open minded and glad that a pub that had lain bare for months has had a new lease of life.
I can say that it has been tastefully and non-offensively redecorated and it is one of the only pubs in the area that is more than happy to accept our canine friends. We walked through the door to find a barmanless bar and had to hang around for a little while until someone realised we were there. We were told to find our own table but were sort of shown to one at the same time as almost every table was reserved. Were we meant to find our table or were they to tell us where to go? Is there one rule for the bar area and another rule for the restaurant area? Because of this we had no idea where we stood when it came to ordering. It was hushed whispers of, “Er…do we go up to the bar?” and, “Well I’m not sure because we got our own table so maybe we do.” It was a bit confusing.
Amidst all the kerfuffle and confusion I was able to peruse the menu. It all looked good, sounded nice and I quite fancied a bit of everything. The prices were very reasonable but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be reasonable for actual, fresh, prepared on site food or reasonable for the latest offerings from Brake Brothers and 3663. I breathed a sigh of releif as it seems it is home made and I’m so happy. It’s nice not to go into a pub and be presented with the same meals you see in every other pub. One of the offerings on the menu is entitled, “The Dogs Trust Sharing Platter”. You need to read on to realise that the dogs at the Dogs Trust are not actually themselves part of the sharing platter. Phew.
During all the looking around and taking in of the pleasant surroundings some very bizarre music had been put on through the extremely unsubtle iPod dock. It was sort of wailing meets jazz harpsichord meets Bach chorales. It was very odd and caused much supressing of giggles but was thankfully changed to something more dining appropriate later on.
I started with a bright roasted red pepper soup. The first spoon was tasty and I was thoroughly enjoying it but by the fourth spoonful I was fearful that the enamel from my teeth may be completely removed by the end of the bowl. The bread was cut on the diagonal to make it extra fancy…or more likely to distract from the fact that the bread was a bit poor. With the soup having a pH of one you’d be hard pushed to taste the bread anyway. I begrudge having to pay extortionate prices for decent Parmesan and subsequently always order risotto whenever I’m out to take advantage of the restaurant’s (hopefully) generous hand with this excuisite cheese. I can’t say I was disappointed. My main was a huge portion that left me that stage of full where you smile a lot but aren’t quite feeling nauseus. I love that level of fullness. For a summer vegetable risotto they certainly kept to their promise. Broccoli, beans, salad, herbs and all perfectly cooked with nice big shavings of Parmesan over the top. The texture of it wasn’t for me; it was well cooked but didn’t have that nice bit of risotto juice at the bottom which rendered it slightly dry.
We shared a brownie for pudding, I couldn’t manage much as I was contently full of risotto. It was a brownie, as expected, with some ice cream. Pleasant. The White Hart was so busy they almost had to turn people away. This is excellent news and I’m glad it’s doing so well. The pub doesn’t just offer a sit down meal though; they have a deli counter, you can take some meals away and you can even ask for just one ingredient. This is pretty useful for the residents of Hamstead Marshall. It makes a good first impression once you get in the door (if you can!) and people want to stay and come back. They have made it accessible to everyone because of the attitude, atmosphere and pricing.
I’m looking forward to a cold Sunday where we can walk the dog down, sit by the fire and enjoy some good food.
The White Hart has since closed since this post was published.