REVIEW: The White Horse in Hascombe
PUBLISHED: 13:25 10 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:37 10 January 2020
With head chef Valentino Gentile having recently claimed the prestigious chef of the year title at the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, The White Horse in Hascombe has been transformed in recent years. Matthew Williams visits this classy country pub
Thousands of people move to the Surrey countryside for its peace, quiet and historic village pubs, but not many of them end up buying their new local when they feel it's not quite the community hub they hoped for.
While most people would begrudgingly settle down with a bitter while contemplating what might have been, Paul and Sorrel Morganti couldn't resist the opportunity to dive into hospitality and take the reins at The White Horse in Hascombe.
Having poured a fresh energy, enthusiasm and passion into the place, as well as completely refurbishing the once faltering 16th century building, they've created a pub that is not only a popular haunt for locals but also a destination for discerning diners.
With the charming Valentino Gentile - who enjoyed such success at the much missed La Luna in Godalming - running the kitchen, it's also racking up the awards.
Regular readers will recognise the name, of course, as Valentino was recently named Surrey Life chef of the year, beating off competition from Kinghams' Paul Baker and London House's Ben Piette.
Following their awards success, we decided it was high time to discover what so tickled our judge's taste buds.
Driving down winding and wintry Surrey Hills lanes, we arrive at The White Horse. It's a welcoming beacon in the night. The car park is already packed and warmth emanates from the pub's windows.
While their day-to-day menus perform the tight rope from refined pub classics to fine dining dishes, they also host the White Horse Dinner Club every month.
Held on the first Thursday, it's a chance for Valentino and his team to flex their culinary and creative muscles and to showcase their range of wines supplied by the independent Taurus Wines of Bramley.
While locals enjoy a pint or three in the old-fashioned bar, expectant Dinner Club diners gather for a welcome drink, before filing into the stylish Dining Room.
It's a pub that is packed full of character; all timber beams, oak and brick floors and wood fires. It's cosy, comfortable and the kind of place a festive rom-com could be based.
Tom Hiddleston walks in out of the cold, seeking sanctuary from an awkward family get together, and his eyes instantly meet those of Emily Blunt polishing the glassware behind the bar... anyway, where were we?
Settling down at our table, we're met by a friendly waitress and a delicious amuse-bouche of amarone, beetroot and radicchio arancini with dolcelatte fondue.
Many of our fellow guests are clearly on first name terms. It's a full house and the atmosphere is quickly convivial.
To start, the aubergine and truffle ballotine, crispy potato "cannelloni" and girolles is a clever blend of textures. As you layer the flavours across the crispy cannelloni, the dish builds with each bite and pop of a girolle.
Where the starter is rich and earthy, the seared sea bass, puntarelle salad, vegetable escabeche and fennel brings a refreshing balance. The fish is beautifully cooked; its crisp edge biting back against lovingly prepared veg and moist flesh.
I fall in love with the wine combination too. The Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2018 is described as the "Pouilly-Fumé of Stellenbosch" and who am I to argue? It's addictive.
The rabbit loin with black olive and blushed tomato stuffing, lovage purée and heritage carrots is coupled with a bold Chianti, and it's the kind of dish I could happily enjoy every day of the week.
I'm not so convinced by the chocolate and rum bread and butter pudding, roasted plums and almond and pistachio ice cream but Sylviane loves it, so I'll put that one down to personal taste.
It's perhaps the most challenging 'wine' match too, with a plum sake splitting opinion.
All in all, it's an extremely pleasant way to spend the evening and the bubbling Dinner Club atmosphere means time slips by in the blink of an eye.
The White Horse walks the balancing act between perfect date night dining and haven to riders, walkers and locals like an elegant dressage star.
Need to know
The White Horse, The Street, Hascombe GU8 4JA
What we ate:
- Dinner Club menu at £37.50
- Amarone, beetroot and radicchio arancini, dolcelatte fondue
- Aubergine and truffle ballotine, crispy potato "cannelloni" and girolles
- Seared sea bass, puntarelle salad, vegetable escabeche and fennel
- Rabbit loin, black olive and blushed tomato stuffing, lovage puree and heritage carrots
- Chocolate and rum bread and butter pudding, roasted plums and almond and pistachio ice cream
What we drank:
- Wine flight at £25
- Domaine Laurens Crémant de Limoux 2017
- La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica 2017
- Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2018
- Ormanni Chianti Classico 2015
- Ginjo Umeshu Plum Sake NV