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The White Horse, The Street, Hascombe GU8 4JA - restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 09:31 06 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:31 06 September 2016

The White Horse is enjoying a new lease of life

The White Horse is enjoying a new lease of life

Archant

Winner of Best Local Menu at the 2015 Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, chef Daniel Britten has since made the move from Guildford town centre to a country pub in Hascombe. Matthew Williams visits The Dining Room at The White Horse to see if he’s maintaining his award-winning flair

Daniel's food concentrates on delicious simplicity Daniel's food concentrates on delicious simplicity

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2016

***

Need to know

The White Horse

The Street, Hascombe GU8 4JA

Tel: 01483 208258 
Web: whitehorsepub.net

What we ate:

Three courses for £29.50

Starters

Ham hock bonbon, piccalilli and pea salad

Chargrilled mackerel, gooseberry compote and celeriac remoulade

Main courses

Pork fillet and jowl, coffee, black pudding and burnt apple

Roasted fillet of hake, samphire, lobster sauce, and capers

Desserts

Warm chocolate fondant tart, caramel sauce and nut brittle

Pineapple carpaccio, rum caramel and coconut ice cream

Variety of English cheeses and accompaniments

Drinks

Duc du Morny Picpoul de Pinet 2015 (Languedoc, France), £24.50

***

REVIEW: Found down the sort of country lanes where a fallen mushroom would cause a week-long tailback (at least if you follow our satnav…), you’ll discover one of the county’s most exciting chefs making a new home for himself. Most will know him for the synonymous Britten’s in Guildford, where the former MasterChef contestant and Tante Marie trained chef first realised his dream of running his own restaurant, but Daniel Britten has now made his escape to the country.

Since the first time Surrey Life reviewed this ambitious chef’s food, it was always very clear that he takes his sourcing as seriously as his cooking (like you should, of course) – which eventually led to him picking up the Best Local Menu gong at last year’s Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards at Foxhills. So, as soon as we heard he was setting up his country kitchen at The White Horse in Hascombe, we were intrigued by what we would find there.

As many readers will be well aware, Surrey is currently undergoing a major transformation in its pub-going offering – and while some perhaps long for the days of simple pub grub, there’s clearly a growing market for something a little more refined and this is the current mission of this particular village pub.

Grand ambitions

Arriving a little early, to take advantage of the sunny summer’s evening in the beautiful garden, we bump into affable manager Tom Baker before introductions have been made – he immediately comes across as hugely passionate about the place, when we mention that we’ve heard about some recent changes.

While the bar is very much old Surrey pub, the brand-new The Dining Room he points us towards (“feel free to have a look around the place”) has been so cleverly put together that it looks and feels as if it could have been there for years. One of those: “I don’t remember that being here, but it must have been…” places. It’s new, it’s of the current country pub style, but it also feels very much of the place.

Hidden away from general view, it’s all well-spaced tables, giant mirrors and, well, enormous pictures of dogs – it looks great and feels almost like a rural private members’ club.

Smartly-bound menus conceal a short (all the better to keep things fresh) run of tantalising dishes. It’s still early days, but they’ve got their own kitchen garden with plans to expand their ‘home-grown’ offering. The tempting wine list is compiled with the assistance of the Palmers Cross-based Taurus Wines – their name’s even on the wine glasses. It’s the little things, right?

We order a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc, although other diners around us are happily sipping on pints from Surrey Hills Brewery and others. This place fits the bill of unpretentious but seriously foodie.

Moreish menu
Served by the lovely Nina, who has also made the short journey from Britten’s, our starters of ham hock and chargrilled mackerel both come from very different directions but hit the spot perfectly. First up is the ham hock, which is tweaked into a bonbon with piccalilli and pea salad to accompany. It’s a moreish little package that has my wife, Sylviane, claiming ‘victory’ in the first round. Having managed to pinch a little while she wasn’t looking, I can understand where she’s coming from. It’s a simple but flavour-packed dish.

My mackerel is a lovely bit of perfectly- cooked fish on a tasty bed of celeriac remoulade, but what pushes it up a level for me is the addition of a little gooseberry – a tart, seasonal delight that really helps the dish to sing far higher than I’d expected.

While I’m tempted by the rib of local beef (with braised short rib, black garlic, watercress sauce and caramelised onion), my intrigue at the pork dish wins through. I’ve eaten Daniel’s food a few times now, and my instinct is that this is the best thing I’ve had to date. It’s a big old portion of delicious textures and flavours, with the black pudding really helping to tie things together. Our wine complements it perfectly too, which is an added bonus.

Sylviane’s excellent hake comes with a deep and delicious lobster sauce, but as she’s started the battle of the courses, I make it 1-1.

To finish, we opt for a couple of desserts plus the cheeseboard – greedy, perhaps, but we really can’t resist. My warm chocolate fondant tart is a very pleasant way to end a great meal but it’s Sylviane’s pineapple carpaccio that has us both talking. While there might be some scope to rethink its presentation (there’s an overriding whiteness to things, which means it slightly blends into the plate like a polar bear in a snow storm), the flavours on show quickly put any doubts aside – and it transports us off to sun-drenched beaches and piña coladas. Surrey Life’s Official Cheese Taster™ is also suitably impressed with the selection brought forward to conclude things – and I make the most of the local Norbury Blue.

Following things up, with those around us in the bustling room seemingly equally satisfied with their evenings, we take a moment to catch up with Daniel. It’s clear this is a big thing for him, but that it’s also only the start. There’s major ambitions and he’s smart enough to know there’s a learning curve to be worked through. Suffice to say, though, he doesn’t appear to be resting on his laurels and it seems that the rest of the team at The White Horse are all pulling in the same direction. I, for one, look forward to seeing how this place develops as it’s sure to create plenty of interest in this competitive pub market around Godalming, Cranleigh and Chiddingfold.

With satnav suitably corrected, we make our way off into the night (past the fairy light strewn garden) thinking that a chef and pub may have found their perfect partners.

***

3 more great foodie pubs

The Grantley Arms

Wonersh

It’s still early days for The Grantley Arms but all the signs point to a very exciting future ahead. This is the kind of place that proves a balance between village pub and fine dining can be found, and the results here are thrilling if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for.

The Street, Wonersh GU5 0PE. Web: thegrantleyarms.co.uk

The Anchor

Ripley

One of Ripley’s oldest and most historic pubs, The Anchor was bought by the owners of Drake’s restaurant in 2013. Since then, it has been transformed into a food-led pub restaurant, serving Steve Drake’s version of pub food, with a team led by manager Edit Farkas and head chef Michael Wall-Palmer.

High Street, Ripley GU23 6AE. Web: ripleyanchor.co.uk

The Swan Inn

Esher

Double Michelin star chef Claude Bosi recently acquired The Swan Inn, updating the place and so far largely sticking to serving classic pub and comfort-food favourites with a special extra touch. Surrey Life has yet to visit but there’s a lot of excited chatter coming from the area. One to keep an eye on.

2 Hare Lane, Esher KT10 9BS. Web: theswanesher.co.uk

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