The White Hart, Somerton
Light lunch or blow out in this relaxed rustic chic pub on the edge of Somerton's ancient Market Square
On the edge of the Market Square in Somerton, the ancient capital of Wessex (so it’s said), in mid-Somerset. Not to be confused with another pub right next door. Just look out for the giant white deer over the entrance – you can’t miss him.
Old coaching inn dating back to the 16th century with facelifts in the 18th and 21st century to create cut-above pub. Spacious and airy with lots of spaces to sit, drink and eat and a semi-circular bar in the middle. Bit of a buzz – even on a Monday lunch time.
All the accoutrements of a rustic pub: wood burner, armchairs and sofas, mis-matched wooden tables and chairs, stone walls, floorboards and inviting nooks.
Lots of places to nab a seat around the place.
Perch up high by the wood-fired pizza oven.
Or keep your feet on the ground round the back.
A suntrap (when there’s sun) courtyard.
Largish garden with views out the back.
Liked the ladies’ loo.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Tom Blake, former head chef at River Cottage, oversees the menu. For weekdays and Saturdays (I assume), there’s a Winter lunch 3-course set menu or the a la carte, with dry aged steaks, ciabattas, salads, sharing plates, pizzas as well as proper starters and mains. Non meat eaters aren’t an afterthought – lots of fish/veggie dishes. Local suppliers listed on a blackboard. Linen napkins are a nice touch.
Onto the nosh. To start: celeriac fritters with smoked paprika, tahini, roasted tomatoes and pepper dressing and chicory. Could almost have been a light lunch in itself.
Salt and pepper squid with a salad of fennel, chilli and lime and harissa creme fraiche. I’d have preferred a light tempura but this was a much heavier batter. Almost too generous a portion for a starter.
Mains: a very delicious roasted fillet of hake (succulent, flaked away) with sweet chorizo and romesco sauce.
Prettiest dish of the day prize awarded to the falafel with baba ganoush and fresh herbs, roasted pumpkin, harissa and pea shoots.
Desserts were yummy. The creme caramel was perfection.
Very good orange and poppy seed pudding, with orange sauce and clotted cream ice cream (quick, before it melts!).
Booze: cunningly hidden in a Ladybird book, the list includes ciders made in the next village, beers made in London Town and all sorts in between. Wines from smaller vineyards, some organic or vegan.
Service: attentive but not in yer face.
Didn’t stay the night but had a peep into a couple of the eight snug en suite bedrooms above the pub, each decked out with superking beds, vintage and desks, lamps and two overlooking the Market Square. Baggsie this one, definitely the grandest, with four-poster, freestanding cast iron bath on a dias and an ensuite wet room.
OUT & ABOUT
Somerton’s worth a mooch. A pretty town with wide streets and pictureskew blue lias 17th and 18th century houses, an ancient Buttercross and old town hall (now an art gallery) in the Market Square, and independent shops (like Life Interiors & Antiques on Broad Street), dotted around. Mystical Glastonbury’s eight miles up the road.
Good for: Relaxed light lunch or a blow out. Bring the kids – a kids’ menu and garden. Bring your laptop and find a quite corner. Stopover if you’re on the London-Cornwall route as it’s only three miles from the A303. Good for veggies and pescatarians. Very dog-friendly: they can come into the bar and stay overnight in the rooms (woof!).
Not for: it’s a pub with good food and a laid back atmos, not a silver service restaurant.
The damage: Set lunch menu 2 courses a very reasonable £15. A la carte: starters £6.50 – £10.50; mains £13.50 – £21; pizzas £8.50 – £12. Ciabattas £10.50 – £12.75. Desserts £6.50/£7.
The White Hart, Market Place, Somerton, Somerset TA11 7LX. Tel 01458 272273.