As I dipped my toasted ciabatta into my starter of thyme roasted Portobello mushrooms with chestnut puree and melted raclette cheese, and took the first bite, the flavours rushed to my tastebuds with a haste matching the speed of the fire engines which raced to tackle the ferocious blaze at The White Hart in the early hours of 20th December 2016.
The blaze destroyed the kitchens and a substantial area of the roof, whilst much of the interior of the entire building was either smoke or water damaged. This was a devastating blow to this popular family friendly inn, between Leeds and Otley, and just in the middle of the Christmas rush too.
Enterprise soon had the builders and roofers in and the place was transformed from a charred and soggy mess into a sparkling and classy place once more. It reopened in March 2017.
With a good reputation as a food destination already, the pub name was kept as it was, rather than to reinvent the venue.
A white hart is a fully mature white stag which features in heraldry associated with royalty. When Richard II was made King of England in 1377 at the age of ten, he adopted the white hart as his emblem. It became popular as a name for inns and hostelries at that time.
The name has survived the centuries on many pubs around the country to this day.
The pub sign depicts a hart’s head rising from a crown.
The pub/restaurant is built in Yorkshire stone with a stone tiled roof. It looks as though it was once a row of cottages, though it has long been knocked through, extended and now fully refurbished.
My party of friends and I were impressed by the £26, three course Christmas menu on offer and decided to make this our main Christmas outing for 2017.
The décor as we stepped inside immediately took the eye. It was one of several open log fires which greeted us from the chill of the car park as we made our way to the bar midway along this long, low building. It is a series of rooms which give privacy yet allow for larger parties and even private dining.
The grey and dusky pink décor was complimented by the contemporary grey wooden tables and grey leather chairs. Wooden floors and Yorkshire stone walls, lit by subdued lighting made the place very atmospheric yet relaxing.
We were soon greeted and our drinks order taken. It was good to see three real ales on offer as well as the array of keg stouts, ciders and lagers. The Black Sheep ale from Masham was very good.
As I said in the first paragraph, my tastebuds delighted in my choice from four starters.
Other choices around the table were a glass pot of Severn and Wye smoked salmon in a Devon crab crème fraiche with pickled beetroot cubes and a roasted tomato soup with salsa verde. All were beautifully presented and flavoursome.
Of the six main courses, I chose a roast salmon wellington in filo pastry on wilted spinach, and fondant potato with bouillabaisse sauce. A hunky slab of lovely fish, though I didn’t think it quite worked with the filo pastry personally.
Other Mains were the inevitable turkey, though this was shunned in favour of slow cooked smoky beef short rib of beef with roasted shallots and root veg mash in red wine jus. This expensive cut of beef can be sometimes quite small in certain restaurants but these were hunky chunks of tender meat on the bone.
All mains came with Brussels sprouts and chestnuts, roast butternut squash and red onion in a spiced orange dressing. Once again, the presentation was very good.
I could not ignore the cheese board (£1.50 supplement) which came on a large slate. It consisted of Shepherd’s Purse Yorkshire Blue, Somerset camembert, Belton Farm red Leicester and Isle of Man vintage cheddar. The grapes, celery, red onion chutney and a selection of assorted biscuits, even some black ones, went down so well.
Gingerbread crème brulee, and Christmas pudding in white rum and brandy sauce were also delicious from a further choice of 6 desserts in total.
The presentation and food were excellent and we shall certainly return. There is no doubt that this is a friendly, stylish, relaxed and comfortable place to dine and that they care about their great food.
Staff, although busy, were polite, friendly and efficient.
The White Hart can be found at LS21 1LH between Leeds and Otley and further details of the current menus can be discovered on the “website”:https://www.thewhitehartpool.co.uk/
This place has truly risen from the ashes. Good for the Hart!