The White House, Affcot, Church Stretton
Reviewer's rating **** Cathy Stanworth sings the praises of a restaurant with stunning countryside views.
Reviewer's rating **** Walking into The White House Restaurant during a particularly beautiful warm summer's evening, the first thing that struck me was its homely, welcoming atmosphere, writes Cathy Stanworth.
The pretty white-painted building also had stunning views of the Shropshire Hills from its attractive cottage-style garden.
During the summer, diners are welcome to sit in it to enjoy their pre-dinner drinks, before settling down in the intimate restaurant. This seats up to 40 and features ancient beams amid its traditional, rural decor.
A former blacksmith shop dating back to the 17th century and lying on the A49 near Church Stretton, The White House Restaurant simply felt like a privately owned property to which you had been specially invited.
A family-run restaurant, it belongs to Raymond and Sarah Hall, a duo with a passion for local produce (they list their local suppliers at the back of the menu), and offer great food at a decent price.
They've obviously got things just right, having won the Deliciously Shropshire Award in 2004, 2005 and 2006 as well as being "Highly Commended" in the Good Food Guide - Eating British Guide.
Reading about them on their website www.dinewithus.co.uk/white-house, I learned that the couple had lived in and around the county all their lives and, coming from rural families, that they appreciate the importance of using good local suppliers. They regularly visit suppliers to choose the finest ingredients on offer.
Entering the small bar from the restaurant, a smiling waitress asked if we had booked a table before taking our drinks order and kindly showing us through to a small lounge. While sipping a large glass of red wine and a pint of lager (£6.25), we perused the menu. From a seasonally changing table d'hote choice, you could have two courses for £20.95 or three courses for £24.95. On Sunday they offer two courses for £15 or three courses for £17.50. We noticed that the menu had a lot of gluten-free choices, which was impressive.
For starters I ordered steamed Conwy mussels in garlic, chilli and Ludlow Gold ale broth, while Simon went for Orkney fish salad - Bings Heath smoked salmon, soused herrings, crayfish tails and prawns. This was also available as a main course.
For my main course, even though I know you are not supposed to follow fish with fish, I didn't care as, having enjoyed a particularly good steak at a birthday dinner the night before, I was after something light. So I plumped for baked fillet of plaice with buttered asparagus and prawns. Simon ordered Marches' tournedos Rossini prime fillet steak wrapped in bacon with pate topping, and Tanner's Claret sauce at a £2 supplement.
A short time later we were shown to our table for two at a window overlooking the garden. This was the last free table and the place was buzzing with atmosphere, with groups of happy diners enjoying good food, good wine and good company.
I was pleased with my bowl of mussels, which came with a finger bowl. There were plenty of them, they were fresh and tasty and I enjoyed the delicate chilli flavour that had been added to them. My only complaint is that I would have liked to have been given a bowl to put the empty shells in, plus a soup spoon to gather up and enjoy all that broth.
Simon's choice looked gorgeous, being an attractive selection of fish which was so pretty it looked almost too good to eat. But it was eaten, being thoroughly enjoyed in the process. Again the fish was very fresh and very tasty and it was a decent portion.
We didn't have a long wait for our main course. I had been expecting, with the place being so busy and all the food freshly cooked, that we'd have to wait a while, but no - so they must be really organised in that kitchen.
I had a beautiful fillet of plaice that was very light and nice and juicy, with the flesh falling away from the skin at a touch of the fork. It was perfectly complemented by obviously fresh, and perfectly cooked buttered asparagus, with the prawns being a lovely little extra taste for the palate.
Simon's dish was very impressive. His piece of meat was huge! I wondered how on earth chef Raymond had managed to incorporate it into a good value set menu, before remembering the £2 supplement - but even so. Simon enjoyed this a lot. He said the pate had melted slightly on top of his meat and he enjoyed it all. It was cooked properly, medium, and was easy to cut, without any fat. He hadn't had steak with pate before and gave the combination the thumbs-up.
Our main courses came with a nice selection of vegetables, including small, square, roast potatoes, sweet pureed carrot, green beans and peas. What Simon and I were both really impressed about was that we were asked if we had enough vegetables - did we want more? In all the years we have been doing reviews for the Shropshire Star not once have we been asked if we wanted more vegetables and, at times, we haven't been best pleased to have to pay extra for veg. In fact we had enough, but we appreciated the thought.
The staff also checked with us more than once that we were happy with every thing.
After our very clean dishes were cleared away it was time to see if we had space for a pudding or not. It didn't take us long to decide that the answer was "yes".
I ordered strawberries and ice cream, while Simon had a selection of English and Welsh cheeses with grapes, homemade chutney, water biscuits and oatcakes (£5.95 extra).
My simple pudding was excellent and really hit the mark on a blisteringly hot evening. The strawberries were very fresh and sweet and they had obviously never been near a supermarket. They reminded me of the fresh farm strawberries my mother would buy every summer when growing up in a village in Nottinghamshire - absolutely delicious. Simon had plenty of tasty cheese, and extra biscuits (on asking), and the grapes were good. As he doesn't like chutney I tried it for him - again nice.
Simon finished off with a coffee (£1.95) and, while I didn't order one, they brought me one and I drank it. They then apologised and said they wouldn't be charging us for my coffee, which was nice. And, hint, don't forget to try the accompanying chocolate truffles - yum yum.
Simon and I agreed that the menu was good value for the standard and quality of the food put before you. We thought that The White House Restaurant was a venue that we'd really enjoyed visiting. It had been a comfortable, relaxed evening in a venue that is obviously working to very high standards in the background, yet from a diner's point of view, everything looks effortless.
The White House Restaurant, Affcot, Church Stretton SY6 6RL
Tel: 01694 781202
Table D'hote Menu
Two courses (£20.95); Three courses (£24.95)
Seasonal Vegetable Soup of the Day; Warm Salad of Shredded Duck & Mango with Hoisin Dressing
Pan-fried Chump of Local Lamb with Shrewsbury Sauce of Rosemary, Redcurrants and Port Sauce; Roast Fillet of Free-range Chicken wrapped in Shropshire Hills Prosciutto, with Welsh Brie Stuffing and White Wine and Tarragon Sauce
Apple and Blueberry Crumble with Custard; White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake with Cream
Flat entrance to the restaurant from rear car park and garden
Homely, warm and welcoming
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