Let’s face it, eating out at the moment needs to be weather and Covid proof. Which means that the pubs and restaurants willing and able to go that extra mile are now reaping the rewards.
Reinventing themselves over and over again, what they have accomplished at The White Hart in Fyfield is nothing short of miraculous, because while it did have a garden, the focus was certainly on the historic interior until the pandemic hit.
One of the first to offer takeaways during lockdown, they continually updated their offering to fit within the rules to keep us well fed and watered.
Which is why we booked lunch in the weatherproof and tasteful outdoor covered seating area. Throw in chef patron’s Mark Chandler’s esteemed food and it’s easy to see why the new outdoor orangery was packed to the rafters, all socially distanced of course. Throw in the two courses for £20 and £30 for three set menu, and we were lucky to get a table.
But what to eat? Should we pick the new outdoor pizza cooked in front of your eyes in the new pizza shed with its wood-fired oven, the full a la carte, one of Mark’s sharing boards, or said set lunch?
READ OUR WHERE TO EAT OUTSIDE GUIDE FOR OXFORDSHIRE HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/top-65-where-to-eat-outside-from-april-12-in-oxfordshires-pubs-cafes-and-restaurants-get-booking/
What a marvellous problem to have we pondered over a glass of Kay’s new favourite recommendation a pink Cava Vilarnau.
In the end, we had a bit of everything, unable to resist all the enticing options, which may have been our downfall, requiring a lie-down afterwards to digest all our delicious food.
First up the pizzas then – the funghi – mushrooms, Appleton wild garlic pesto, red onion, Parmesan (£12). Truly delicious with chewy crusts, a soft garlicky, oily, charred taste and seasonal toppings. And generous……..
But then Mark is all over the seasons. The White Hart grows huge amounts of their own produce for the kitchens at their nearby allotments and kitchen garden (I’m already desperate for their courgette flowers) so everything is as fresh and local as it can possibly be.
The starter of roast parsnip and coconut soup with parsnip bhajis was not only intriguing and original, but tasted divine. I could eat those crisp, sweet, curried bhajis for breakfast. Set against the soft, sweet, soothing soup, the contrast of crunch and taste was spot on.
As for the poached Fyfield hen’s egg with Appleton wild garlic, Jersey Royals and morels, it was pretty as a picture, the yolk breaking gently onto spring’s favourite ingredients.
Our Covid-restaurant-starved-eyes were far bigger than our lockdown stomachs, so the mezze board was perhaps ambitious, but we still tucked in with great enthusiasm to the hummus, marinated chickpeas, roasted pepper stuffed with bulgar wheat, roasted pepper and cumin dip, babaganoush, sweet and sour aubergines, marinated olives and feta, warm flatbread £16.
Admittedly, ordering an additional main of garlic roasted cauliflower, pickled raisins, Oxford Blue and smoked hazelnuts (£18) was perhaps a bridge too far, but hey it sounded interesting, so why not.
But perhaps it was the desserts that really caught us off guard, despite being full to the brim.
The Earl Grey brioche with a lemon creme fraiche and raspberry ripple ice cream was a gift of a dish (see main pic) – resplendent on a plate, and as enjoyable to eat – the piquant tastes of raspberry and lemon contrasting with the creamy tea soaked bread and creamy ice cream – it was masterful.
I honestly didn’t think it could get any better until I tried Sarah’s yoghurt panna cotta with rhubarb and orange, and puffed rice. Look at it! It tasted even better. Really. I’m closing my eyes just remembering it, a bouquet of colour and the same sharp/soft contrast between the orange and rhubarb and the wobbly panna cotta.
We had an amazing time, despite the weather, the breeze and the circumstances. But that’s what the White Hart is good at – it does things properly, and the food follows suit.
The White Hart, Fyfield. https://www.whitehart-fyfield.com