BBQ Whisky Beer at The White Hart, Witley GU8 5PH - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 21:28 26 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:22 24 March 2015
Award-winning ribs by a London institution that’s escaped to the country? Matthew Williams couldn’t resist a visit to The White Hart in Witley following a reader’s recommendation – and was pleased with what he found
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2015
Restaurant reviewed: BBQ Whisky Beer at The White Hart, Petworth Road, Witley, near Godalming GU8 5PH. Tel: 01428 683695
What we ate:
Beef Rillette, cranberry and toast, £7
Hot smoked trout, fried avocado and wasabi cream, £7
Jacobs Ladder beef rib (large), £15
Triple-cooked chips, £3.50
Macaroni cheese with Parmesan and herb crumb, £4
Old-fashioned cheesecake, £6
Le Sanglier De La Montagne Reserve Chardonnay, £5
Twickenham Fine Ales’ Winter Cheer, £3.90
Hot Dark and Stormy (half pint), £2.50
REVIEW: It all started a few months ago when a reader got in touch to tell me they’d discovered a hidden gem in Witley.
“You must be talking about the ballroom under the lake, right?” I replied.
“Sorry, no, what’s that? A subterranean dancehall? Pretty sure this place is above ground – at least from what I remember; although they do serve an awful lot of whisky...” he added hesitantly.
Certainly, in the past, the most exciting thing I knew about the village of Witley, near Godalming, was that once upon a time a local eccentric had created a majestic country estate at Witley Park that included a glass ceilinged ballroom under its lake (read our piece HERE).
Now, while the reader’s suggestion may not have been quite as grand, to me it sounded equally intriguing: a new concept at The White Hart pub involving a modern twist on the traditional barbecue. And whisky; lots of it.
A few months went by with this exciting ‘new’ venture top of my must-visit list, but as keen-eyed readers may have spotted, my pen failed to touch these restaurant review pages for a while. It wasn’t for lack of interest; life, as they say, had chosen another path for me – and our review team of my wife Sylviane and I had expanded to three, with the addition of our beautiful daughter, Iona.
With fatherhood new to me, the thought of heading to any pub or restaurant seemed rather daunting. But, with no idea of the etiquette of family dining, we decided it was time to finally step back into the water.
Plus, as this latest venture at The White Hart came about from a husband-and-wife team leaving the crazy nights of London for the more sedate pace of the Surrey countryside with their two children, it seemed a fitting place to test our daughter’s patience – would we even make it to the starters though, I wondered?
Sam Daffin and his wife Fiona made their name at The Wargrave Arms near Edgware Road. Serving modern barbecue, with influences from Korean gogigui, American pits, Spanish plancha, Argentine asado and the good old-fashioned British grill, they went on to take the trophy for Great British Rib Champion at Ribstock 2013. But, back in leafy Surrey, how would this translate to a sprawling 16th century country pub? We were about to find out...
Arriving at The White Hart, we were led out of the early 2015 cold to a window-side table with plenty of room for Iona and her pushchair. Among the cosy nooks, crannies and wood beams, whisky bottles decorated the shelves and records lined the walls, while blues and jazz floated out of the speakers.
With a small glass of wine, a hot dark and stormy (basically rum and ginger beer warmed to a mulled wine effect) and jug of water ordered (those 50 or so bottles of whisky would have to wait for another day!), I glanced around noting the mixed crowd of families with children and happy couples snuggled in quiet corners.
The menu at The White Hart is short and intense. You won’t find any ham and egg or fish and chips here; instead, it’s mainly slow-cooked barbecue meats (although there are also vegetarian dishes on offer) accompanied by wasabi creams, kimchee (a Korean side dish) and pickled salads.
For the starter, I opted for the hot smoked trout, which came with crunch from fried avocado and bite from wasabi cream. Presented with finesse, everything on the plate packed a perfect punch. Sylviane’s beef rillette arrived with cranberry sauce and toast. Her uncertainty over the cranberry was quickly won over by her first taste of the dish. Iona watched on enviously.
On to the main courses and I couldn’t resist the Jacob’s Ladder beef rib (which comes in three sizes). To accompany it, I ordered a pint of Twickenham Fine Ales’ Winter Cheer – not that the melt-off-the bone meat needed any help. Massaged with flavour, smoked on-site and cooked low and slow, this award-winning dish was a personal foodie heaven. With a pickled salad to freshen the palate and sides of triple-cooked chips and silky mac’n’cheese that made me finally realise why people like the stuff, this was knock-out fare.
Sylviane went for the sausages. Sounds simple, but these “angel hot guts” are a Texan-style sausage made with beef, pepper, paprika and beer. Handmade and again smoked on-site, they are finished over the charcoal grill and utterly delicious.
Already won over, we ummed and ahhed over dessert, but couldn’t resist the cheesecake. Served deconstructed in a jar, this variant took on the flavours almost of a cocktail: all vanilla cheesecake cream with bourbon caramel, cherries and orange bitters syrup. Sylviane, not normally a cheesecake fan, stole the jar.
Meeting Sam and Fiona, we were won over by their enthusiasm and passion. Transforming an English country pub in Surrey into a whisky and rib house was never going to be the easiest task, but I for one am pleased to see another unique venue sprinkling its own particular magic on the local foodie scene. The place was also bustling, so word is obviously out.
And Iona’s thoughts? She can’t wait to head back to try some of the good stuff – and take advantage of the conveniently placed high chairs on offer!
It may not be a ballroom under a lake, but The White Hart has all the ingredients to get Surrey society talking.
3 other restaurants doing the unusual
St John’s, Redhill RH1 6QF
Tel: 01737 760212
With a refined restaurant menu always on offer, it still doesn’t take much to persuade chef Jon Coomb out of the kitchen to cook a giant paella outdoors or into their taco van for some Mexican flavours.
The Black Swan
Ockham KT11 1NG
Tel: 01932 862364
Visit The Black Swan at the right time and you’re sure to find some really interesting game on the menu. Well worth a visit at any time, be sure to ask for something a little different.
The Percy Arms
Chilworth GU4 8NP
Tel: 01483 561765
Serving modern British cuisine with a South African twist, among the intriguing options is the bobotie (ground beef steak seasoned with spices, baked with an egg topping and served with rice).