Review: The White Hart, Hingham
PUBLISHED: 11:27 07 June 2016
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016
It is undergoing a transformation – so is the new menu living up to expectation, asks Rachel Buller
With its commanding position on the Market Place and the imposing stone stag standing proud outside, The White Hart Hotel is a building with a real sense of history. You cannot help but imagine the stories and adventures which have been recounted over the centuries, seeping into the fabric of the walls.
At the end of last year, the 15th century hotel was taken over and a transformation began throughout – from the menu to the décor, while also adding luxury new bedrooms, work which is still ongoing.
So it was very pleasing to see that, once inside, it still has an abundance of character, with lots of original features, stripped polished wood and nooks and crannies. And while it has been unmistakably given a modern sheen, it is by no means a sanitized affair and remains very traditional in style – old fashioned books, pub games and antique artefacts fill spaces, and the walls carry an interesting array of art work.
For a Wednesday night there was a nice busy hubbub in the air as my three friends and I took to our table up some stairs in what a feels like a little hidden away balcony. The menu is varied, with a choice of six starters and eight mains, plus a daily butcher’s and fish special and the pub classics steak, burgers and fish and chips. There is also a mini specials board for cocktails to accompany dinner as well as a good wine list and choice of beer.
For starters, we chose the garlic and sweet chilli king prawns with crispy salad, the grilled warmed pepper goats cheese served with rocket salad and the confit barbary duck croquettes with pearl barley, bacon and a red onion marmalade.
The first thing to say is that the portions were enormous. The prawns were sweet and sticky and, much to my friend’s delight, there were a lot of them; the piece of goats cheese was warm and gooey and again very generous in size, and both were served with an abundance of salad leaves. The confit duck croquettes were delicious. The crispy crumb of the croquette, the soft potato and duck inside, the bite of the pearl barley and the salty bacon were a fantastic flavour combination – however, it could easily have made a main meal.
Choosing a main course was a tough task, but the homemade pork, apple and cider pie served with leek mash and vegetables sounded too good to miss and it didn’t disappoint. Breaking into the crisp, light pastry, it was packed with tender pork and a rich cider gravy – soaked up perfectly by the creamy mash.
The catch of the day – pollock – was perfectly cooked and full of flavour and the pan roast pork fillet, served with colcannon potato, savoy cabbage and mustard sauce was deliciously tender. The huge portion of pasta with roast butternut squash, red pepper and tomato ragu and pumpkin seeds was a flavoursome vegetarian choice and the pasta looked and tasted homemade.
It is safe to say we were all completely full, but then the dessert menu appeared and we couldn’t quite resist . . .
We settled for coffee and two puddings to share – a rich, spiced apple and almond cake and the panna cotta with rhubarb. We had definitely saved the best until last. The panna cotta in particular was rich and creamy and passed the all important wobble test, and the rhubarb was suitably sharp in contrast to the sweetness.
There can be no complaint about the quality of the food – the menu manages to mix traditional dishes and strong flavours, with subtle modern touches. However, the portion sizes are enormous, and while most people might consider that a plus, not a minus, it seems a shame if everyone is too full to try one of the White Hart’s delicious desserts.
Such was our reluctance to leave the cosy atmosphere of our table, when we did finally make our way out, we managed to get lost and couldn’t find the door. Our contentment and full bellies appeared to have temporarily affected our ability to think - much to the friendly amusement of the locals gathered in the bar.
Expect to pay:
Starters from £2 to £8.95
Mains from £9.95 to £22
Desserts priced from £4.95
The White Hart Hotel, Market Place, Hingham, NR9 4AF; 01953 850214; www.whitehartnorfolk.co.uk