The White Hart @ Lydgate

WhiteHart.jpgWE set out wondering whether the White Hart in Lydgate was one of those great British institutions referred to at last week’s BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming awards.
Taking the winding roads up to Lydgate we listened to the wine critic and television presenter Oz Clarke telling listeners: “In these times when the British pub enormous threat and we have between six and ten pubs closing every single week, I don’t think the Great British Pub is under threat at all”.
His argument being that establishments that produce good, straightforward food and which get involved in their local communities, will thrive even in these credit crunch times.
And with its award wining chefs, Ryan Dutson and John Rudden, the White Hart is certainly one of those places that has concentrated on its local community, not only serving up for weddings and special occasions but also hosting any number of special events over a typical year.
Coming up in the next few weeks, for example, there’s comedy nights and music nights all with dinner included as well as luxury banquets for Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
So we arrived at the dramatic moors location with high hopes.
The exterior of the building doesn’t do credit to the pub’s scenic poistion near a pretty church and set in the middle of inviting footpaths tramping into the open countryside.
Strangely, stepping into the restaurant dining room loses all sense of that great outdoors. The formal room with its tasteful, muted décor, low ceiling and rather too thoroughfare seating arrangement, seems at odds with the rustic, rural wildness we’d anticipated from outside.
But we’d seen enough of the view, and a windswept December day is no time for a wander on the moors – the menu was the visitor attraction for this jaunt out.
Lunch menu is set at £19.95 with a choice of starters, mains, deserts and coffee with scrumptious homemade chocolate.
My starter of celeriac soup was a thickly textured lake (think runny porridge) with an island in the middle which is described on the menu as a grain mustard and apple beignot. It was a little dumpling of surprise with tiny apple inerds of delight.
He went for the roast pumpkin and sweet garlic tart with a blue cheese crème fraiche which had more of the piquancy of the blue cheese than it did the softness of the pumpkin, all housed in a light case.
For the mains, a pre-requisite of my dish was a love of lamb. Three different treatments of the local meat arrived on a plate with ratatouille and a colour confusing rosemary puree which arrived orange due to its sweet potato carrier.
The main cut on the plate was pot roast lam – succulent and rosy but there was also a sweet sautéed kidney and the deepest of flavoured confit of shoulder to really set off this trilogy.
The cod braised with oxtail was equally stunning with almost translucent flakes of the fish set off by the rich, deep tomes of oxtail and the surprising crunch of roast salsify.
Sticking with a British theme we decided to share an apple crumble only to be jolted out of the expected comfort food zone – the most appley of apple jellies topped with cold custard and crumble top wasn’t exactly what we’d expected but it was a suitably interesting accompaniment to a memorable meal.
The lunch was certainly that Great British fare that Oz was so supportive of in pubs he has been visiting across the country but, and there is a but, as an experience the service let the side down.
Being seated near the kitchen door, despite there being plenty of other available tables, felt a little unwelcoming for starters but then the extreme slowness of the service was painful.
Bearing in mind that the waiter had to almost fall over us to take other people’s orders to the table (including people who’d been seated after us) a one hour wait to be delivered the main course probably qualifies as downright hostile.
On food alone, the White Hart certainly makes it’s a good British pub. A more welcoming serving style would easily make it a Great one.
The White Hart is at www.thewhitehart.co.uk. 51 STOCKPORT ROAD LYDGATE OLDHAM OL4 4JJ TEL: 0044 (0)1457 872566 FAX: 0044 (0)1457 875190 EMAIL: bookings@thewhitehart.co.uk

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