Review: The White Hart
by Dan Izzard
04 June 2018
I take a break from my usual city centre hangouts to try a more rural-feeling pub – but don't have to stray very far to find it...
If The White Hart was a hairstyle it would be a mullet: business at the front, party at the back. Think a traditional Bath stone façade, set against the village-like-setting of Widcombe, but with a Mediterranean oasis-style courtyard round the other side, which is quite the hotspot on a sunny day.
I’m not sure if it was the sun, or the fact that I’d been hanging out at a fishmonger’s earlier in the day, but Widcombe seemed to have a cheerful, seaside vibe (complete with lack of parking spaces); we happily ambled the short distance there from Bath Spa station.
Making our way through the bar area, glass of Picpoul de Pinet in hand, we joined our fellow punters – who were also chasing the early evening sunlight – in the courtyard garden. Filled with pots, flowerbeds, herbs and friendly dogs (who actually did look a bit like their owners), it was a nice change from the brushed aluminium and granite of my usual, more urban watering holes.
Eventually dragging ourselves away from the garden, we weaved through the back of the building to our table for two. Here, we found traditional pub decor, a buzzing bar filled with the sounds of ‘go on then, make it a large glass’, and a dining area with just enough mismatched furniture to qualify as appealingly quirky, but not try hard. I took a seat on a reclaimed church pew, hoping I would not have to repent for any culinary sins by the end of the meal.
The food here matches the casual atmosphere. First, fresh crab (£7.50) came mounded on toast with a wedge of lemon and dressed salad. The meat was mixed with a generous amount of coriander and chilli, properly waking my tastebuds up. Across the table, strong nutty English asparagus (£7.80) was being dipped in the vibrant yellow yolk of a soft-boiled pheasant egg. Spots of balsamic glaze added a touch of sweetness to the simple but handsome starter.
The very precisely priced duck breast with pea and bacon risotto (£17.85) was my main of choice before the specials board was popped on the table. I don’t normally go for a T-bone, but this wasn’t beef: this was a pork T-bone (£18.50). It came served with braised little gem, peas, spring onion, and an anchovy and rosemary butter that had been liberally applied to just about everything (which I was definitely okay with). It really was (sorry in advance) top of the chops; primarily juicy loin meat, it had a smaller strip of tenderloin, both sides benefitting from being cooked on the bone.
I’ve always been very much of the opinion that chorizo can better almost any meal, and the hake and chickpea special (£18) did nothing to prove otherwise. There were only a few small cubes, but that was all that was needed for the chorizo to impart its wonderful smoky flavour on the chickpeas. The meaty hake had a layer of crispy skin and, on top of that, a dollop of saffron aioli was a great excuse to order a side of fries.
Immediately heading in for a second dipped chip, I was shooed away back to my T-bone. Which was a good job really, as I had plenty to get through myself.
The Prosecco jelly (£6.50), very subtle in booziness, embodied The White Hart’s fun character, but the cheeseboard (£7.50) was more my own style, featuring a creamy Godminster organic Cheddar, gooey Bath Soft Cheese and a rather nice Black Sticks blue. Assembled on a cracker with a dollop of beetroot chutney, it was a little bit of me.
The White Hart seems to have several rules of success. Use great quality ingredients, don’t mess around with them. Add a bit more butter, and serve in generous portions. I heard it described as “our local diner” by another table, casually, and was instantly jealous.
The White Hart, Widcombe Hill, Bath BA2 6AA; 01225 338053