“ Bar/Bistro in Saintfield, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. „
Like most families we all love our food, and so milestone birthdays or special occasions are usually celebrated by going to a restaurant for something to eat. My parents wouldn't really go for Italian, Chinese, Indian restaurants etc, so we normally opt for somewhere that serves more traditional fayre. The White Horse is less than 10 miles away from where we live, so this is one of our favourite places to go. As Sunday was Mother's Day, we (5 adults and 2 children), we headed there for a meal. LOCATION AND ESTABLISHMENT The White Horse Inn is located in the main street of Saintfield, a small country village in Co. Down, Northern Ireland. It is around 12 miles from Belfast city centre and easy to find, as most things are in this small country! The bar/bistro is a former coaching inn that hosts live music and quizzes also. DECOR AND SIZE As this is a country inn, as you can imagine the decor is very traditional and rustic. It was renovated in 2002 and is extremely inviting. The bar area and staircase is all pine, with exposed brick walls and thick carpeted floor. The walls are painted a dark, rich green, with vintage Guinness posters dotted here and there, and shelves holding old antique books. There is also a log fire and plenty of booths and tables whether you are there for a meal or just a drink at the bar. The overall decor is very cosy without looking old-fashioned. The bistro area seats 60 people, and this area includes an indoor balcony which is slightly more private than the main bar. There is also a lower level that has an outdoor heated smoking area, and can be used for private hire. MENU We chose from the special menu laid on for Mother's Day which was £14.95 for 2 courses, or £18.95 for all 3. Each course had a choice from 4 dishes eg. Starter - Prawn and melon cocktail, deep fried Brie; Main - Smoked haddock with an olive crust, Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding; Dessert - Raspberry Ruffle Cheesecake, Sticky Toffee Pudding. Aside from the special menus, the bistro offers a lunch menu and a dinner menu. It is mainly pub grub with a modern twist, and I will just give some examples of the meals available: Starters - eg. Grilled goat's cheese bruschetta with peppered pear chutney and balsamic reduction; Smoked haddock, prawn, scallion and toulouse sausage risotto with parmesan shavings; Soup of the day with Belfast black stout wheaten bread. Main - eg. Southern fried chicken goujons, chive sour cream dip, chips and salad; Pan fried venison sausages, black pudding mash, roast onion and parsley jus; Seabass, king prawn, pak choi, lemon and scallion creamed noodles; Dry aged sirloin steak, sauteed onions and mushrooms, tobacco onions; White Horse burger with caramelised onion, bacon and cheese. Dessert menus are available when you go, and usually feature things such as Apple Crumble, Pavlova and cheesecakes... the usual stodgy, delicious type of pudding! FOOD AND DRINK The White Horse tries to source all their food locally; for example the potatoes are provided by the owner's brother. Every meal I have ever had here has been delicious, particularly their steaks, which are cooked to perfection and ridiculously big. On Sunday I had deep fried Brie for starters, which came with a peppered pear chutney. The chutney was tangy and the slight acidity really complimented the oozy, gooey cheese, which was completely melted on the inside and coated with crispy breadcrumbs on the outside. It was so good that I didn't even feel guilty about how bad for you it is. For a main I had the turkey and ham, which had stuffing inside. You could tell how freshly made the stuffing was as it was full of rosemary. The gravy was very rich and flavoursome. It came with roast potatoes which were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, a very smooth and buttery mashed potato, cauliflower cheese, mashed carrots, and broccoli. For dessert I had chocolate tart with orange ice cream. I expected the chocolate tart to be a bit more chocolatey than it was which was the only disappointment, but it was still lovely. I had never had orange ice cream before and it was very refreshing and a real palate cleanser against the thick chocolate. There was a kids menu available which offered about 6 choices such as cheeseburgers or penne pasta. My niece had chicken nuggets and chips - the chicken nuggets were freshly made in golden batter; no frozen crap. My nephew had cod fingers and chips, and again it was not frozen fish fingers, it was proper fish in batter which had been freshly made. All the portions were huge and to be honest I think it was the most I have ever had on my plate for a main meal! The bar is recommended by CAMRA as it offers 5 locally brewed ales - of which I did not partake I might add. PRICE Prices range from £3.85-£5.75 for a starter (lunch and evening menu) and £5.95-£9.95 for a main (lunch menu); and £9.30-£19.95 for a main (evening menu). CUSTOMER SERVICE The customer service can't be faulted. As soon as we walked in, a member of staff came over and showed us to the table we had booked immediately. Someone took our drinks orders and gave us menus within a couple of minutes, and everything was set down and removed very efficiently. I did not get any cranberry sauce with my main meal like I was supposed to, but to be honest I completely forgot about it anyway. The kids were given colouring in stuff to keep them occupied, and each member of staff that dealt with our table was pleasant and friendly, greeting us and then thanking us as we left. OPENING HOURS Bar - Mon - Sat: 11.30am - 1.00am Sun: 12 noon - 10.00pm Bistro - Mon - Thu: 11.30am - 8.00pm Fri - Sat: 11.30am - 9.00pm Sun: 12 noon - 8.00pm WOULD I RECOMMEND? In case it's not obvious, yes! This is a lovely, cosy pub and the portion sizes are huge so you really do get your money's worth. The polite, personable staff and fresh, tasty food all make up for a terrific dining experience.