Diverse and tasty: Norfolk’s pretty one-pub town has a welcoming hot spot for food lovers
- Credit: Archant
Nick Richards went chomping round his old stomping ground at Hingham's White Hart Hotel
For a rapidly expanding town its still a mystery why Hingham only has one pub.
When my family moved there 39 years ago this month there were three - the Royal Oak, The Eight Ringers and, standing in the centre of the Market Place, The White Hart.
The former two soon closed and for more than 35 years the White Hart has stood alone as Hingham's one place to stop off and have a drink, meal and even sleep because it's also a hotel. The town does have a couple of tea rooms but the only restaurant as such is the White Hart.
Back in the 80s it always seemed a tad run down but I didn't ever give it a close inspection, I just knew it as an imposing building opposite the newsagents. Lacking in animal knowledge I didn't understand why they couldn't spell 'heart' and, given the fact that we moved away when I was 11, I never set foot inside.
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So finally entering this now grand-looking hotel and eating a meal while staring at the newsagents where I used to buy my Panini Football 85 stickers and Match Weekly magazines was a tad surreal.
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It's recently been given that country pub makeover which seems to fit in with a place of its size - there's a big bar area with lots of nooks and crannies to sit in.
There's an impressive fire by the bar blasting out some serious heat with a stack of logs next to it and Fleetwood Mac's Dreams coming through the speakers as my wife and I walked in.
Standing at the bar we ordered drinks in front of a lovely brass pipe row of beers on tap - there are five local real ales available, including Morland Original (£3.40) Woodforde's Wherry (£3.70), Black Sheep Best Bitter (£3.65), Panther's Beast of East (£3.80) and my choice, a pint of Hop Harvest Gold from Norfolk's Humpty Dumpty brewery (£3.70).
My wife had a 50ml glass of Amata Prosecco (£4.95) and we sat and perused the vast menus.
There's a host of starters ranging from homemade focaccia bread with rape seed oil and balsamic vinegar (£2.75) up to a wild mushroom tart, Norfolk mussels and North African-style Game Pastilla (all £7.25).
We skipped the starters though and both ordered our main course.
As a bona fide fish lover I was hooked by the whole roasted mackerel with Norfolk Peer potatoes (£14.25) which was tremendous.
It was served on a bed of kale and played to my love of salty things with whopping chunks of chorizo adding a nice background to a lovely tender mackerel fillet. The potatoes were hearty and salty too and the delicious Hop Harvest Gold helped slide this wonderful dish down a treat.
Across the table Mrs R ordered a herb-crusted rack of lamb (£18.95) I can tell when she is enjoying her food as she goes very quiet and starts eating faster. It was medium rare, tender and again severed on a bed of wilted Norfolk kale with salt-baked potatoes that were fine once taken down a notch or two with the gravy.
Said gravy was a red wine jus that she said could have been slightly thicker but was still a lovely dish.
To be fair to the White Hart I could have ordered anything from the main menu. It all sounded delicious - locally-sourced venison sausages (£13.95), seared calves liver (£13.95), seared sea bass fillet (£16.25) - and that didn't even take in the pub classics such as The White Hart beef and steak burger (£12.45) a Jack Daniels-glazed chicken burger (£12.95) and traditional lasagne with garlic bread and salad (£12.95).
Vegans are not forgotten with plenty of dishes that promise to be both delicious and nutritious - a kale and pine nut stuffed mushroom, slow-roasted butternut squash, and black bean, tofu and sweet potato curry to name but three. They were all priced between £11.95 and £12.95.
We ordered more drinks with our meal - a glass of Faultline Sauvignon Blanc (£5.95) and a Coke for me (£1.40).
Moving on to dessert there were the usual suspects to chose - I had a creme brulee while across the table, a peanut brownie was selected (both £7.25).
The creme brulee was lovely, had that crunchy topping akin to stepping on an icy puddle with the tip of your toe and was accompanied by fruit and nut biscotti which was sadly rock solid and therefore almost impossible to eat.
The brownie was nicer, served with ice cream and a chocolate and fruit sauce. Both took ages to arrive and compared to the prices of the mains and the drinks, they seemed a little dear. Only a minor grumble. I think next time I visit I'd have a starter and main course and maybe skip dessert.
Impressive-looking hotel slap bang in the centre of Hingham.
On a weekday lunchtime it was busy with that lovely background hum of contented food-lovers, there was no particular demographic dominating the dining, a nice mix of ages, sexes and meal choices.
Ramp up to the front door so handy for wheelchairs
It's Hingham so it's never that easy. Just need to be patient and find a space. If you're coming from the Norwich area and can't park outside just drive on 30 seconds further and try and find a space on the Fairland.
Fine and clean and with an interesting selection of toiletries for you to help yourself - the gents had a pot of gel and a can of hairspray
As a pub you can anything you like from cocktails to a Coke. Prices are refreshingly cheap with draught real ales from £3.40. There's also an inviting cocktail menu above the fireplace.
Pretty slow, but it didn't matter. It doesn't seem to be the kind of place you go for a quick meal, far more of a place you'd spend most of the afternoon and leave feeling slightly fuzzy.
Value for money
£63.70 for two mains, two desserts and two drinks each. About right.
The whole main course menu - I genuinely fancied eating every dish.
The White Hart Hotel dominates the centre of Hingham and rightly so. On a miserable winter's day its a warm and inviting place for a meal with a menu that has plenty of Norfolk flavour running through it. Coupled with a comfortable setting and a wide selection of drinks, you could easily spend a long time here eating and drinking until your hart's content.
Our reviews are conducted without a restaurant's prior knowledge and are an independent account of our visit.