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Dinner At: The White Hart, Welwyn

PUBLISHED: 12:30 26 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:30 26 August 2014

Lots of choice, and the specials caught the attention

Lots of choice, and the specials caught the attention

Archant

A new emphasis on eating out at a favourite haunt in Welwyn makes an impression on food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne

The White HartThe White Hart

As a typical Hertfordshire hideaway, the White Hart in Welwyn is hard to beat. A former coaching inn, dating like many of its county cousins from the 17th century, it has retained its hospitality heritage and has operated for a decent number of years as a small family hotel, most recently under the watchful eye of owner-proprietor Piers Lyon.

It also has the obligatory village setting, an imposing entrance and an arched courtyard where once the northbound stage from what is now the conveniently-close A1M rested its horses, and passengers headed for the warmth and refreshment inside. In that respect, it’s easy to imagine not much has changed. The building is still full of nooks and crannies and the main dining area, down a crooked staircase from the entrance, boasts a huge open fireplace and impressive flagstoned floor.

It’s a cosy setting, but everything else about the White Hart is thoroughly up to date, including what has been a largely-informal menu. Here, change is in the wind following the arrival as general manager four months ago of Daniel Drummey. He is also an experienced chef, with the Coltsfoot Country Retreat at Datchworth, the former Grapevine Restaurant in Welwyn and Cinnabar Café, Hertford, on his CV. The word is guests can expect more emphasis on daily specials as Drummey, working in collaboration with chef Daniel Kennie, refines things.

On my visit, I found a familiar regular menu, with tapas, nibbles, appetisers, platters, burgers and ‘The Grill’ all featured, along with desserts plus a promising wine list. Lots of choice, and it all looked interesting enough, but it was the specials that caught the attention.

Steak pops - two generous and tender pieces of meat on sticks with a rocket saladSteak pops - two generous and tender pieces of meat on sticks with a rocket salad

From that selection, my companion chose the Taste of the Sea platter (£8.95, top right) as a starter. It came with scallops, smoked salmon and dill gravadlax served with pickled sushi ginger, celeriac puree and samphire – tasty and inventive and a high scorer. I went for steak pops (£7.95, above), two generous and tender pieces of meat on sticks with a rocket salad. The promised ‘rich bordelaise sauce’ seemed absent but I was assured it was ‘in the rocket’. Other than that, I was impressed with the dish.

For mains, we chose two of the specials. A traditional pork belly (£15.95, top far right) came with dauphinoise potatoes, honey-roasted carrots and parsnips and a white wine and tarragon sauce. This hit most of the right spots for my partner, though she bemoaned the lack of ‘proper crackling’. Feeling more adventurous, I chose the whole stuffed sea bream (£15.95), with citrus couscous, sun-blush tomatoes and rocket salad, not an easy dish but well done here apart from the too-dry couscous.

With a new menu to play with, desserts (£5.95 each) beckoned. Nothing much can go wrong with apple and cinnamon crumble with pistachio ice cream for me and a pistachio, chocolate and lemon-curd ice cream selection across the table, and nothing did.

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The welcoming interiorThe welcoming interior

BOOK A TABLE.

The White Hart, 2 Prospect Place, Welwyn AL6 9EN.

01438 715353.

thewhiteharthotel.net.

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The cost of this meal for two was £79.70, including wine. Service was extra.

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This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

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