Pub review: The White Horse, Bearsted
PUBLISHED: 17:33 11 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:33 11 November 2013
Country setting for a leisurely Sunday lunch
Sunday lunch at The White Horse in Bearsted, near Maidstone, is a lively affair. We arrived to find an overflowing car park, a bar and restaurant brimming with families, and an army of waiting staff.
The building, which dates back to the 17th century, is a traditional whitewashed inn with uninterrupted views over the village green. Inside it’s a nice mix of authentic and contemporary. The bar and lounge areas are atmospheric, with exposed beams, stone floors, and logs piled in wicker caskets for a crackling fire.
The restaurant winds up through three levels, from a low-lit ground floor to a bright and lofty mid-level dining area (the village hall in days gone by) and up into a cosy attic space.
Sunday lunch is not just busy, it’s an all-day event, with orders taken from noon to 9pm. So when my husband, toddler and I settled down at around 3.30pm it didn’t feel like we were too late to the party.
Alongside traditional roasts, we found an exciting selection of starters and desserts on the Sunday menu, such as Black Pearl scallops with butternut squash purée and chorizo, and chocolate marquise with caramelised hazelnuts and chocolate gelato.
The à la carte menu (British mixed with Mediterranean) was also available, with offerings like fish pie and wood-fired pizzas, as well as some specials of the day.
We didn’t order a separate dish for our 14-month-old, but the children’s menu looked way above average.
The selection, all at £5.95, included a Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Applewood cheddar sauce, pumpkin seeds and pangrattato.
Our starters were arancini balls with red peppers and chilli mayo (from the à la carte), and spiced monkfish tail on crushed potatoes and olives (Sunday menu). Both arrived artistically dressed on black slates.
The arancini were outwardly crisp and inwardly gooey with mozzarella. The monkfish was juicy and nicely dusted with spice. We were off to a very good start.
My husband opted for lamb rump marinated in roast garlic and rosemary. The meat and trimmings, such as the honey and thyme carrots, were cooked just so, but the flavour of the meat marinade didn’t come through, which left the dish feeling a little plain. However, we were cheered by the presence of a large Yorkshire pudding, which should never just be the preserve of the beef eaters. My à la carte order was the spit-roast chicken with fries, Asian slaw and a piri piri sauce, delightfully presented on a wooden board, fries in a wire basket, sauce in a jug. It was clearly all home made, and both my toddler and I approved.
Desserts were hard to resist. We had a perfectly wobbly pannacotta with mint and strawberries and a French lemon curd and almond sponge with vanilla gelato that was tart and sweet, and satisfying.
The White Horse is part of Mitchells & Butlers’ empire of 1600 managed pubs, bars and restaurants, including familiar brands like Harvester, O’Neill’s and Browns. The White Horse falls under the Premium Country Dining Group but still feels reassuringly individual.
Part of that might be down to its energetic manager, who’s been at the helm for just over a year. Simon Hagen is intent on fostering a real community spirit at the pub.
It’s undoubtedly a premium offering, with prices to match. High staffing levels did ensure we got very attentive service while we were there, and Simon tells me there’s a team of nine chefs, all trained by HQ. We would definitely visit again. n
Read Julie Cramer’s blogs at Life and Chai (www.lifeandchai.wordpress.com)