The White Hart is situated just outside South Wingfield and changed hands in June 2012. Since then the original building has undergone more of a complete rebuild than renovation! However for those of us who liked to stop in on the way back from a walk in the nearby White Peak, don’t worry as it is still a ‘pub’ which serves a fantastic pint and has retained this character. However the new incarnation is now far from just being a great pub. The White Hart Inn is catering for just about everyone and anything, but the transition has been perfectly executed and for me, a total success. On entering the bar area you are instantly struck by the overall warmth and friendliness from all members of staff, instantly turning you into a ‘local’.
We were laughing with the staff as if we’d known them for years within 5 minutes of entering the bar. The décor is sympathetic to the age of the original building and it was good to see that care has been taken in all the renovations to use as much reclaimed material as possible. The solid oak beams and stone walls are shown off to their best by the furniture and tasteful furnishings. It is clear that a great deal of thought has gone in to every single aspect of this project.
We sat down at our table to choose our meals and were pleasantly surprised to find that although the menu was of the calibre you might expect at a fine dining restaurant, the prices were far more reasonable and what you want from a local pub. I chose the pigeon breast with black pudding purée, garnished with beetroot, red onion and a bacon crisp and my friend, the traditional prawn cocktail. Both dishes were exemplary, my pigeon cooked to perfection, with the portion sizes perfect for starters.
Our waitress, Georgia-Rae was friendly, chatty but not too so, with nothing being too much trouble, including topping up our wine glasses when empty and bringing water for those of us not lucky enough to be allowed another. The manager Luke recommended our mains and we took his advice, eating from the ‘chef’s specials’ menu for the evening. I had the fillet of Derbyshire beef which was cooked rare as is my preference, served with Boulangère potatoes, wilted spinach and a dreamy, classic Béarnaise sauce, with extra in a little jug. I devoured the entire thing, which was no mean feat given the incredibly generous cut of meat.
My friend decided on the pan fried salmon fillet, served with fondant potato and crushed peas. The accompanying sauce with this dish was Choron which is a twist on a Béarnaise sauce with the addition of tomato, I had not previously tasted this and it was gorgeous. Both sauces tasted fantastic and complemented their dishes wonderfully without overpowering any of the delicate tastes. The crushed peas were a revelation. I often find peas can be left on the plate as they’re just too much hassle to eat politely but these were so tasty it was impossible to leave even one and the crushed element meant there was absolutely no need for a little bit of honey to ‘keep them on the knife’ or fork for those of us with a few table manners! Luke gave us a little bit of background on what the new owners at The White Hart are trying to achieve; I have to say we had already reached the same conclusions so it is clearly working. They have brought their years of experience in running another pub and expanded the original building to include function rooms for holding events along with lovely rooms to stay overnight in if you wanted a short break in the surrounding countryside, including a honeymoon suite for weddings. They are great believers in locally sourced, seasonal produce, even buying their eggs just across the road.
The outside of the pub has been landscaped and provides everything you could want on a sunny afternoon in beautiful countryside. It was time for dessert and as I looked down the menu I could have happily chosen nearly anything, as it was all described so beautifully. My wish came true though, for nestling amongst the sweets was the option of a cheeseboard, not just any cheeseboard but a selection of 6 cheeses which you could mix and match to your own taste. I didn’t choose though and just tried them all along with the wheat wafers, homemade chutney, celery and grapes. The dish was a masterpiece and included cheeses I had never heard of before.
Our other dish was the lemon tart which came with autumnal berries, served in different ways. Each mouthful was completely delicious, the pastry light and crisp, lemon filling creamy and tart with an edge of sweetness, all topped off with the beautifully fresh berries. Occasionally people ask me where I would recommend for good food and so I always ask them what sort of occasion it’s for as it would undoubtedly affect my answer. I can honestly say I would recommend The White Hart without the need for the follow up query. I would choose to come here whether I wanted a stop off after a walk and a quick ‘pub’ meal, a romantic dinner or weekend away with a special partner, a boozy night out with friends or for a large gathering of friends and family for a special celebration.
Do try it, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. We are going back soon with others to try the Sunday lunch menu, although I am going to try and pass the driving responsibility to someone else this time!