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Dinner club

We love an under-the-radar dining club, so it was a big YES to five courses at the new White Horse Dinner Club.

THE LOWDOWN / LOCATION

Ever in search of a dining experience with a difference, we were pretty excited to be invited to one of the first ever Dinner Clubs hosted by The White Horse in Hascombe. The Dinner Club is held on the first Thursday of each month, and while it’s still fairly new, word is getting out – because the August club has already sold out. Better get in early for the September event.

THE VIBE

The Dinner Club is held in the dining room at The White Horse. You can book a table and go with a group of friends, or as a couple, or even a single. Mr Muds and I were invited by the White Horse owners, Paul and Sorrel, and there were about 10 of us on our table including the pub’s next-door neighbours and other locals.

There’s really friendly vibe about this event – and there’s no doubt this is where The White Horse has managed to tame that very tricky beast of remaining true to it’s local following whilst also establishing itself as a destination pub and restaurant worth travelling to.

Some of the credit for this can go to the brilliant head chef Valentino Gentile, who creates imaginative menus for the pub’s à la carte Dining Room (open for lunch Mon-Sat and for dinner Wed-Sat), while also offering top notch gastro pub food for the pub, terrace and bar.

SCOFF & QUAFF

It was a gloriously sunny evening on the night of the July Dinner Club, so we started with a drink on the front terrace. I get the feeling the locals have claimed this part of the pub as their own. A lovely Prosecco later and it was into the Dining Room to meet our table neighbours over a welcome glass of bubbles, a French sparkling wine, Cote Mas Frisante.

As with most dining clubs, there was a set menu – all five courses of it. Valentino had decided on a fish theme, and wines – which are provided by the Muddy-award winning Taurus Wines in Bramley – were chosen to complement each course.

We started with amuse bouche – and I can’t remember exactly what it was – I blame the bubbles and wine, but it was lovely.

Next up was a Cornish mackerel ceviche with avocado, Bloody Mary sorbet and charred corn. OMG! It was amazing. Bloody Mary sorbet! Now there’s something I could most certainly have more of. It was perfect. A dry white Austrian wine – Keltenwein Gruner Veltliner – was served alongside this and was lovely. In fact, probably my favourite wine of the night.

Moving on to our third course, we had native lobster with cantaloupe melon gazpacho and Parma ham. I’d already been lucky enough to sample this dish when I spent a morning in the kitchen with Valentino. You can ready my feature on Valentino’s kitchen here. It was beautifully put together, and tasted just as good. Wine here was Hugel Gentil, a refreshing white from the Alsace.

And our new friends agreed. In fact one gentleman who’d recently eaten at Raymond Blanc’s Michelin-starred Le Manoir said Val’s menu was better. High praise indeed!

Gurnard, “nudi” (gnocchi-like dumplings), datterino tomato and black olives came next and like the course that preceded it, this too was excellent. Here we drank a chilled Sicilian red wine – Santa Teresa Organic Frappato – which is the perfect summer wine for red wine drinkers.

We finished with Pimms affogato and Secretts strawberries (from Secretts farm shop) – inspired by owner Paul’s weakness for the traditional affogato with vanilla ice-cream and a shot of espresso.

The food was fab. The wine as perfectly matched to the courses. And the company was brilliant. This is a one dinner party I’d totally suggest you get in on. Although – as we’ve already mentioned – you’ll have to get in early!

KID-FRIENDLY?

Nah! I’d leave the kids at home for this one. While it’s definitely a relaxed and informal affair, this is not really an evening for kids.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Foodies, sociable types and those in search of a culinary adventure. The food was the star of the show – followed very closely by the wine – and both gave people plenty to talk about.

Not for: People wanting a choice – the menu is set, although they can cater for different dietary requirements. And it’s noisy, lively and fun so obviously not your spot if you’re looking for a quiet or romantic meal.

The damage: It’s £35 a head for the food – which I’d say is exceptional value for a very high standard of cooking – with a wine flight available.

The White Horse, The Street, Hascombe, GU8 4JA. Tel: 01483 208 258.  whitehorsepub.net

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