Two words. Glittery prosecco. I didn’t even know that was a thing, did you? Well folks, it is. At least at the White Horse in Balsall Common anyway.
Oh okay, technically it’s called a Prosecco & Pomegranate Sparkler but in reality it was far cooler than that. Bubbly effervescence tinted with pretty pink and shimmering with glittery loveliness that gradually tumbles down the glass and settles at the bottom. Cool huh?
We had toddled along to the White Horse after a particularly busy day at work hoping for a relaxed evening out (hence the need for bubbles). It bills itself as a traditional country pub with a modern feel, and that’s actually a pretty accurate description.
It’s not got the most idyllic setting, alongside the relatively busy Kenilworth Road in Balsall Common. But despite this, they’ve created a rather nice deck outside, and once inside I didn’t notice a hint of any road noise. As for the inside – it’s HUGE. A bar area, a restaurant area including a raised area that’s apparently the most coveted spot. And that’s before you get to the private dining area that has its own exit out onto an enclosed courtyard garden.
I’m happy to say, what was previously an adjoining ‘Wacky Warehouse’ is no more, though apparently the pub is still relatively child-friendly. Not my ideal, but I do recognise that families like to eat out too, so if you’ve got sproglets you’re welcome here.
Glittery prosecco in hand, I was happy to leave my worries behind as I took a look at the menu. The White Horse says it offers “fresh homemade traditional dishes, some of which are given a modern twist” and again, it’s a bob-on description. From pasta, pies and a whole menu of stonebaked pizzas to starters, steaks and a range of main courses from fish and chips to ‘Goan spiced fish’, there’s plenty to please everyone.
Mr M and I had taken his mum along for her first food blog experience. She’s a bit of a domestic goddess herself so we were keen to see if she could be impressed. The three of us started off by awkwardly asking to combine one of the sharing plates of warm rustic bread with roasted garlic and marinated olives, with another of box-baked camembert with warm rustic breads and red onion jam.
Lucky for us, they cut down the amount of bread so we wouldn’t quite turn into human doughballs ourselves, but despite this it was still a pretty impressive board of cheesy bready goodness. Not much I can say about melty cheese, fresh bread, roasted garlic and sweet red onion jam other than I love it, but it was a nicely-presented, casually tasty way to start the meal.
We probably didn’t need much more than that, but when I spotted something I’d never heard of I had to order a starter off the specials menu. Fregola. Maybe I’m a heathen, but I’d never heard of, or seen this, before. Turns out fregola – or fregula as it’s also known – is a type of pasta from Sardinia. But you’d be forgiven for not recognising it as pasta if you hadn’t seen it before. Shaped into balls, it looks more like giant couscous.
The dish was a simple, appealing mediterranean-style dish. Fregola tossed with mediterranean vegetables, pine nuts and micro basil – summed up as ‘deconstructed pesto’. A real winner. Light, bright and tasty. Chunks of sweet, roasted peppers and red onions, slightly peppery rocket, and the delicate little pasta balls which proved the perfect vehicle for a tangy oily, herby dressing that to me epitomised the taste of holiday.
For main course, I chose pan-roasted chicken breast with bubble & squeak and a forest mushroom cream sauce. It reminded me of the chicken dish I had on our trip to the Ragged Cot in Minchinhampton and seemed to fit the bill of ‘modern British’ pretty well.
The bubble & squeak was hidden underneath, with chicken perched on top then doused in the rich creamy mushroom sauce. If I hadn’t already devoured my body weight in bread, I may have been able to finish it but I confess it was a bit of a challenge.
The chicken was tender and well-cooked, and a pretty darn generous portion, while the sauce was just as a cream sauce should be and boasted a selection of fabulous funghi rather than your bogstandard white button mushrooms.
Bubble and squeak is one of my faves and it was substantial, tasty and well-seasoned. I love that what was traditionally a way of using up leftovers is now an acceptable item on menus where I imagine once upon a time that would never have happened.
Mummy M chose something far less ‘British’ than me, opting for the Goan spiced fish, with a king prawn and sugar snap curry and braised coriander rice. This was another generous portion and filled the restaurant with the aromatic scent of spice and coconut.
The flavour certainly didn’t let it down, with the heat of chilli and the sourness of tamarind, along with the creaminess of the coconut. The fish was well-cooked, tender and meaty, while the sugar snap peas added a welcome crunch.
I have to say, and my MIL agreed, that I don’t think the potatoes in the curry were necessary, given that it was served with rice. I only tend to include potatoes in dishes when it’s a one-pot meal. I know, you shouldn’t complain about being given ‘too much food’, but it was slight overkill on the carb front and could easily have done without them. Or the rice (which, by the way, was rather nice, fluffy and light and full of flavour).
Mr M – wait for it…. – chose an 8oz ribeye steak. 28-day dry aged beef, served with skin-on fries, grilled mushroom and tomato. He chose garlic butter over peppercorn sauce and was actually rather impressed with his steak. Great quality meat apparently, and well cooked.
We should have been done, but were encouraged to push on through and try one of the dessert specials – a summer strawberry eton mess ice cream sundae and a perfect treat for the glorious weather we’ve been having. Again, given that we’d probably all agree that assembling an ice cream sundae isn’t the biggest culinary feat in the world, there’s not too much I can say about it. But it was certainly a tempting choice on the menu and lived up to our expectations.
I’m glad we shared one between three of us as it was another whopper of a portion, and the combination of strawberries, Joe Delucci’s gelato (which you may recall I’ve reviewed on the blog before) and a helluva lot of cream was a nice full stop to the meal.
The White Horse is a good place for a midweek meal with family or friends, especially if you’ve got children to entertain. It’s not somewhere I’d rush to for a special occasion, but I would happily go back to eat there, especially when they’re offering a nice few foods and dishes with a difference that are a variation on the traditional Brit dishes. Plus, they let dogs in and with the nice bit of outdoor space they’ve sorted out, it could make a nice place for a sunny day if you’re in or around Balsall Common.
Oh, and glittery prosecco! That’s got to be a reason to go.
I was invited for a complimentary meal at The White Horse. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.