After a lovely walk through Wytham Woods, we stopped at the nearby 16th Century village pub The White Hart. The majority of my group were predominantly vegan or vegetarian and as this particular pub is known for its new chef cooking up a storm, we were keen to see what the chef could bring to a veggie/vegan palate.It was packed on arrival, but still encompassing the cosy, warm and rustic feel of an Oxfordshire pub.
We were promptly informed that the pulled jack fruit burger had sold out - my first choice was gone and obviously popular! Luckily there were many dishes we could all still have, and we shared these between us. A few in the group had the cauliflower soup, accompanied by a generous chunk of toasted bread. Another had the courgette and avocado sushi, my fellow diner noted it wasn’t overdone with lashings of wasabi to try and overcompensate on missing fish, or to try and add more flavour. Instead, the spiced cucumber chutney, pickled ginger and wasabi worked in harmony to allow the courgette to be at the forefront of the dish.
A few others had the red bell pepper cheese cake, with green olive crumb, capers and artichoke hearts - the diner who chose this wanted more it was so good! The beetroot tartare was intriguing as the ‘egg yolk’ looked so real, but was actually a yellow pepper: as you can see from the picture (above), it looked stunning. These dishes were demolished quite quickly!
Having got here just after 2.30pm, I only received my food just after 4.00pm! I had chosen the celeriac steak, of course the celeriac was at the centre here, with a depth of flavour similar to that of meat, yet having this delicate caramelised quality resembling baked garlic was absurd. The accompanying hazelnuts gave a crunchy texture, and the sharpness from the pickled radish, cut through the sweetness of the celeriac beautifully. A chervil emulsion gave it a sense of luxuriousness from its rich creaminess, and rye crackers were embedded around the ensemble to add to the different textures of the dish as a whole. The dish was beautifully constructed, presented and the flavour combinations worked exceptionally together - superb.
I was told by one of the group that dessert here is a must, despite most of us being quite full; we all made the last push and got dessert. Most of the group went for the warming, comforting rice pudding. One went for the coffee crème brûlée and I went for the vegan rhubarb panna cotta, which was missing that wonderful creaminess you get from cow’s milk - we reckoned that coconut or almond milk might have been a great alterative here, to hit that spot it hadn’t quite hit. I was offered some of the rice pudding from my fellow diner’s plate to put on top to see if this changed the taste! It definitely was missing the creaminess expected from a panna cotta.
Overall despite the painfully long wait, some side vegetables being forgotten and having to go through the order several times, great care, love and attention has gone into these dishes and the chef should be very proud of what they have accomplished here, especially with what they can do with vegetarian and vegan food. I think the service let our experience down here, but I would still like to share this place with others for its culinary achievement. No wonder they have received awards for the food! I would like to return to try the non-vegetarian menu because if it was anything like this one I am definitely in for another culinary ride.