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Review: The White Hart, Fyfield

Splendid spring salad

Splendid spring salad

There’s a certain kind of pub that can be a bit wearisome for a food blogger. It’s a lovely old building, service is friendly and informal, the cooking is all excellent and the menu is mainly old favourites with some original touches because chef obviously is a craftsman and loves what he or she is doing. You’d always be happy dining there.

There’s your blog, job done. Unless you find a Roman coin in your locally shot venison it can be hard to work out how to write anything interesting!

But really, this can’t possibly be a bad thing. It’s actually a splendid triumph that pretty much no matter where you live in the country there will be a dining pub less than thirty minutes drive away that you’d be more than happy to take the whole family to for a celebratory birthday lunch, where the food will be so good that maybe only ten years ago it would have had all the big London reviewers galloping out of the city to gush over it. I still remember the first dinner I had at the Stagg at Titley, feted at the time for being the first ever pub to score a Michelin star, and it was certainly no better than our lunch at The White Hart, Fyfield.

Fishy platter

Fishy platter

And yet apparently not one major journalist nor any food blogger has taken the trouble to come and visit the White Hart. In such a useful spot, too. Just south of Oxford, handy for the M4 or the M40 if you need a bite to eat on the way to/from parts unknown.

So let’s set the record straight. I started my meal with a beautifully plated spring salad, which must have had more than a dozen elements including a wild garlic mousse, a beautiful little crispy quails egg, a chanterelle, some goat cheese puree, broad beans, nasturtium leaves, cauliflower, the list goes on. But taken as a whole it was just well balanced and gorgeous. Maureen enjoyed a generous sharing platter of seafood with my brother; the home-cured salmon was particularly good. For main course neither of us could resist the lamb, a tasty and juicy piece of meat that came with a splendid ratatouille and some char-grilled ribbons of courgette that made me deeply envious (I love char-grilling courgette ribbons, but they never come out like this!). The slice of black olive and feta tart that accompanied was a good idea, and a good texture, but neither of the flavours really sang out from it.

Lamb

Lamb

Puddings were good. I was seduced into chocolate fondant with salted caramel sauce and coffee ice cream, and can report that they cook a mean fondant which of course combined well with coffee and salt caramel. Maureen’s lime and ginger cheesecake was more inventive, the crystal clear jelly on top being a really good example of how we eat with our eyes – I’m sure just the sight of it made the cheesecake even more zingy.

You’re going to average £34 for 3 courses, so it’s definitely on the ambitious end of the pub dining price range, but the presentation and imagination in the dishes well deserved it. Oh, and architecture nerds will love the building – it’s a 15th century chantry house, turned into a pub centuries ago but recently restored so the huge windows and towering beamed roof are all visible.

Zingy cheesecake

Zingy cheesecake

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