Pub with a quality outlookBy Halima Sadat
June 19, 2008
The White Lion at Yateley is proving that delicious food and unpretentious surroundings can go hand in hand.
New landlady Gemma Romain is determined that her traditional ‘local’ should make a name for itself for its food as much as its beer.
The White Lion, in Reading Road, is a Mitchells and Butlers Vintage Inns pub, featuring Youngs and London Pride ales.
With an eye on seasonal produce, it offers menus according to the time of year. The newly-launched summer menu is already proving popular with customers.
According to Gemma, this is thanks to the combination of good quality ingredients coupled with the expertise of kitchen manager Chris King.
“We always use the best we can,” she said. “Much of the produce is either organic or free range, and our steaks are always prime cuts of British beef.
“Chris is the regional accredited chef for training the other Vintage Inns chefs. One of the things he does is teach them how to recognise the different cuts of meat so they know what to look for.”
The idea behind the pub’s menu is to offer variation with something for everyone, so there is slightly more exotic fare such as sea bass on oriental vegetables alongside traditional meals such as chicken pie.
Gemma continued: “The summer menu has more of a focus on salads, but we also gear it, particularly our daily specials, around what our customers want.
“We always have pies, though, because these are very popular all year round.”
I took a companion along to see how the new menu shaped up and we found ourselves quite spoilt for choice.
To start, I chose warm goat’s cheese tart, which consisted of goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomatoes in puff pastry with drizzles of balsamic vinegar to give a little sharpness to contrast with the cheese.
My companion tried the crab cakes, which had a slight spiciness nicely complemented by the accompanying cool mango salsa. Both starters were beautifully presented and large enough to be eaten as a filling snack as an alternative to an entree.
To follow, I went for one of the day’s specials — lemon marinated sea bass fillets — but my companion decided to try one of the good old faithfuls, beef and Guinness pie. This was a real man’s meal with super-tender pieces of beef in a rich, slightly sharp gravy topped by ultra-light puff pastry.
The vegetables of creamy mash, green beans and carrots were a no-nonsense accompaniment, but still crisp and tasty, rather than soggy and overcooked as is too often the case with these kinds of meals.
In contrast, the sea bass fillets, of which there were two, made a lighter choice, and arrived sitting on a tomato and garlic salsa. These came with a half pepper stuffed with herby couscous, which was an attractive and unusual way of serving it as well as being delicious.
Again, everything was cooked as it should be and, most importantly, the fish was not overdone, but was moist and succulent.
By this time we were starting to feel quite full because the portions were more than adequate, but we decided we could just about squeeze in a pudding.
The dessert menu was very tempting, again with several old favourites, such as rhubarb crumble, chocolate brownies and Apple Eve’s pudding, for anyone who might still have room to spare. However, we opted for something more summery and light.
My companion chose an old-fashioned lemon posset, which was beautifully presented in a tall glass and topped with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint.
He declared that it was creamy, light and deliciously lemony but without being sour — just the right thing for the finale of a large meal on a summer evening.
For myself, I was delighted to see one of my all-time favourites, pannacotta, on the menu so without hesitation that had to be my choice. And what a good one it was.
It was as light as air with a delicate vanilla flavour which was not overpowered by the accompanying slightly sharp blackcurrant sauce. In fact, I could go so far as to say it was one of the best I’ve eaten.
The White Lion is not a fancy pub but with its varied wine list and tasty, wholesome food, it is a good choice for a relaxed and informal evening out.