As The White Hart Duffield gears up to celebrate a very special birthday, I visit to review the new summer menu. Does the new menu deliver in the flavour stakes?
Have you ever watched the 1985 TV adaptation of Anne of Green Gables? Bonus points for reading Lucy Maud Montgomery most excellent series. If you haven’t watched it, you really, really should. If you have watched it, and dig all things bucolic, then make The White Hart Duffield your next port of call.
The White Hart Duffield is easy to get to, and is a short drive from Derby city centre. Parking is a little difficult to find, and the car park can apparently get quite busy (surely a good sign?), so it is worth arriving a little earlier to find alternative on-street parking.
The bar is busy and teeming with thirsty drinkers. A cosy environ is accentuated by an interior of dark woods, low lighting and a compact wrap-around bar. It is excessively warm circa 27°C weather, and my heart goes out to the front of house and kitchen folk slaving over a hot stove.
Walking out of the pub and stepping into the garden feels as if I have entered a parallel universe. The pleasantly boisterous bar indoors is in stark, stark contrast to the calming outdoors, where chilled out country pub vibes prevail (we are seated towards the back of the garden). There are around 10 tables dotted around the garden, filled with revellers enjoying the sunshine. There is even an honorary member of pub staff in the form of Merlot the dog, whose friendly demeanour will see him visit your table with the most perfunctory of nudges as he moves around the garden like a host checking in on his beloved diners.
After a long day at work, The White Hart Duffield is the best place to be. Sipping a bellini with the tinkering laugh of children in the background, I feel at peace and almost forget that I’m here to review the food. We have been handed two menus (vegetarian + vegan, and à la carte) which include dishes such as sourdough pizzas, pies and halloumi burger.
I kick off with Cajun spiced crispy squid. I noisily crunch through the moreish batter, which is the spicy, protective covering, and when I reach the inside, I find that the squid has a good bite. I swipe the squid rings through piquant aioli, and within minutes, this happens (yes I’m a sucker for aioli and batter). These are squid rings done right, and therefore should remain on your dish for a matter of minutes, and on the menu for eternity.
Dining partner enjoys his prawn pil pil. Succulent prawns swimming in a light sauce laden with oil feels like a confit with a twist. The sauce which is packed with chilli and garlic is a joy to smell and eat. I am momentarily shocked by the Hulk-sized hunk of bread that arrives with a flourish beside the prawns. Isn’t the bread too much?
It turns out no is the answer. That is just enough bread to dunk into the flavoursome oil, with a bite left over if you want to eat some of the bread with creamy butter.
My main of Korean roasted chicken (half) is a wonderful cacophony of flavours. Kochujang is fiery, and the holy trinity of ginger-garlic-chillies is ramped up with soy sauce that has a slight tang on the swallow. The bed of roast vegetables (sweet potato, red onion, pepper) is genius, because the tender chicken juices have collected onto the vegetables giving them a meaty flavour hit that blows you away.
Dining parter’s lamb rump is another impressive dish that is filling and striking to look at. The glazed meat super tender, whilst English asparagus and creamed potato nestled in redcurrant jus are superb with the meaty gravy.
Posh chips (Parmesan, truffle oil) and the side of steamed vegetables are good, although I do have a fondness for truffles, which is why my favourite remains these Parmesan dusted beauties.
Caramelised lemon tart (blackcurrant sorbet) is a joy to eat. I thwack the bruléed topping, breaking it with a satisfying crack, which gives way to a citrussy lemon filling with a refreshing aftertaste. The blackcurrant sorbet too, is an excellent palate cleanser, and a sublime dessert perfect for the summer months.
Here are some wine pairings that I recommend with each course:
- Starter of crispy squid or prawn pil pil + Kudu Plains Chenin Blanc
- Main of lamb rump + Chianti Riserva Castellani
- Dessert of lemon tart + Perle D’Arche Sauternes 2014
It is heartening and great news that The White Hart Duffield is making good food accessible to all in the form of a standalone vegetarian and vegan menu featuring arancini, sourdough pizza, vegan shakshouka and plant-based burgers. This menu is extensive and appeals to the flexitarian in me and no doubt others too. Next time I will order from the vegan menu and promise to report back when I do.
The White Hart Duffield is very active and a great community hub, hosting frequent quiz nights throughout the year. It is also celebrating its 80th anniversary birthday party at the end of this month, so do keep an eye on their social media pages detailed at the end of this review.
Dining at The White Hart Duffield is a pleasure. You can expect good food, attentive service and the company of a pleasant dog that minds its own business (my favourite kind). The White Hart Duffield is expected to be busy on the bank holiday weekend, so do be sure to call up the pub beforehand to book if you can.
Rating: (1: Hate – 10: Love)
Restaurant name: White Hart Duffield
Address: 36 Town St, Duffield, Belper DE56 4GD
Caters for dietary requirements: Yes (gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and any other requests).
Quietest table: Table 11.
Wheelchair friendly: Yes.
How to make reservation: Online and telephone
Telephone: 01332 841141
How to get there: 15 minutes’ drive from Derby city centre.
Whilst in the area: Kedleston Hall is a short 10 minutes way by car. If the weather is clement, a visit to the Hall is worth it for a walk on the grounds.