It is always exciting when a new food outlet opens, be it a mobile street food van, a local bistro, or a high-end restaurant. So when we were invited to sample the menu at the newly refurbished White Hart on Godstone Green, we have to say that, having been in the restaurant prior to its extensive renovation, we were interested to see what new owners Revere Pub Company have achieved.
In all honesty, visits to The White Hart pre-refurbishment were reserved for occasions when the less foodie family members wanted to eat out, or when all else was booked and we didn't want to cook. The price was middle of the road, the quality of food slightly more to the side and the staff, although trying hard, had lost their inspiration. It was definitely time for change. On first impressions the building refurbishment is a complete hit. The front entrance is welcoming, open, and makes you want to peak inside. From the rear car park you now feel like you are walking in to a well-oiled establishment, with an outside seating area covered for the typical English weather, and a fabulous fire pit with seating. The bar looks fresh with a good selection of wines, spirits and mixers. The restaurant area is clean and fairly well seated, and the toilets are 100% improved.
After a quick Sipsmith G&T at the bar we were shown to our table, and our server Carol was as nice as we could hope for. Enthusiastic, friendly, and happy to bring out the allergen menu as soon as I asked for additional information. The menu offered a good choice of food but little for those wanting to avoid gluten or dairy. Having said that, not all food outlets have to offer alternatives and we are lucky that many cater for dietary requirements. If you visit somewhere that doesn't then I feel you have plenty of other venue options in the area rather than making them change their menu.
With such a good venue refurbishment, we did expect a price increase on the menu from previously, and it was there but as long as the quality of the food matches I do not see any issue with paying more. The White Hart ethos is available from the website, and they state:
"Our ethos here is simple. We're all about being excellent in everything we do; from the food and drinks we serve to the home-from-home space we've created. So whether you're joining us for a drink at the bar, an evening meal or hiring one of our spaces we aim to go above and beyond every time you visit.The White Hart on Godstone Green
When we are invited to review we aim to give an honest, unbiased opinion. After we had a good look at the menu, and had a thorough read through the allergen advice, we made the following selections to try.
Soy marinated duck, pickled cucumber, radish & spring onion noodle salad, sesame seeds, soy glaze (£8.50)
Marinated buffalo mozzarella, asparagus, peas, broad beans, mint, lemon, olive oil dressing (v) (£6.75)
Both starters were served in bowls and were probably a small main in size rather than a starter to kick off the main course. Andy had the duck, which included a lot of meat for a starter and although well cooked, it was served on a tasteless bed of noodle and the bowl was swimming in soy sauce. Served on a plate with a light drizzle of soy and seasoned noodles, around half the duck would have been perfect on top.
The mozzarella was nice, and the green vegetables fresh and crispy but so much food still. I rearranged my dish once I had eaten enough, and if it had been plated as such it would have been the perfect size and presentation. Much of both starters was left uneaten for simple volume, and that is a waste.
Moroccan spiced belly of pork, apricot tagine, crispy polenta (£15.95)
8oz Rib Eye (35 day aged) served with a smoked flat mushroom, triple cooked chips and garlic & watercress butter (£23.95)
The pork was perfect. Unlike the duck, the juice was needed to compliment the polenta, with the apricot tagine being a good addition to the flavour. Polenta is a good alternative to try and this was really crispy and soaked up the sauce for added flavouring.
Both main courses were a good size. Had we eaten the whole starter we would have struggled with these dishes, so I would suggest sharing a starter unless you have a huge appetite.
I opted for a medium-rare steak and got exactly what I ordered. The steak was perfect and I have no complaints on the quality or service for this choice. The mushroom was smaller than most places serve with steak but this was a welcome change, as it was tasty and without waste.
Some mushrooms just come in too big and greasy. The juice on the plate was minimal and I had a serving of sweet potato fries.
Chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse, chocolate shard, vanilla pod ice cream (v) (£6.50)
Buttermilk pannacotta, freeze dried raspberries, raspberry sorbet (£6.50)
Andy doesn't usually do dessert unless it is a wine, but we wanted to take a look at the brownie because in many places you will be served a slice of chocolate cake covered in cream instead of the brownie you were expecting.
The brownie was indeed a brownie of around 3 inches long and 2 x 1 inches wide and deep. Enough to serve two! It was as any good brownie should be - crispy on the outside, oozing like a melt in the middle pudding once inside. Served with a nice light mousse, ice cream, chocolate shards - and topped with honeycomb chunks, it hit all the sweet spots.
Unfortunately the pannacotta was served in an over-sized dish, looked tempting with fresh and freeze-dried raspberries on top, but the pannacotta had sadly separated. Instead of a deliciously smooth texture we had a gritty topping with a layer of gelatin underneath, in clear and distinct divide making it inedible.
Tournée du Sud, Grenache Pinot Noir, France - Light and fruity (£21.95)
The wine was recommended by the manager after we had made our meal choice, and although we would usually go for a heavier red (like a Malbec), we both agreed that this was a really good choice and even though it was light it went exceptionally well with the order.
The individual costs per item do seem a little inflated, and so are the portion sizes, at the loss of quality for some. This is a lovely venue in a quaint Surrey village, our local village, and we have looked at other reviews of the food served after our meal and sadly found that quite a few people feel this is over-priced and under quality. Personally, we find the venue has one foot in the chain restaurant door and another in the high-end market, and they are trying to please different customer demographics at the same time but not quite hitting the mark.
To continue and grow they will need to get the reviews coming in on a more positive note, and make a choice as to which customers they are aiming to please. As it stands they are perfectly placed between a carvery and a quality restaurant but not quite fitting either. For us, they will work well when we want to take out the family 'for a treat' as this would be seen as a step up from the Toby Carvery, but the prices would probably stop a repeat visit unless they either decrease the portion size and price, or the quality of the food is raised to match what they are charging.
On the way out we overheard the couple next to us stating that their meal portions seemed to be American supersized. There does seem to be a certain patron who will always want the big portion to feel they are getting value for money. But for the foodie in us, if the price and portion size dropped, with a little more time working on the flavour and presentation, then I believe the majority of people would opt for quality over quantity.
If you go, then we can recommend trying the steak as the cooking was spot on. And Carol served us superbly, without fault or unnecessary interruption. Water was served as a mater of course and cutlery considered and changed swiftly on ordering. If you haven't been then I would certainly recommend popping in and sampling something with an open mind. We will be keeping an eye on other reviews and it will be interesting to pop back after the management have sorted out any teething issues and acted on any customer feedback received.
*Revere Pub Company is a trading name of Marston's PLC.