Dining out is like a birthday in which surprise, delight and satisfaction are the key ingredients.
Opening a menu or unwrapping a gift are very similar…you’re either pumped up with appreciation or deflated with disappointment.
So often eateries fall into the trap of serving up the same fare month after month, whether because of time constraints, laziness or a case of it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But head to the White Horse at Woolley Moor and you’ll never be short of surprises.
For the monthly menu (served Monday to Thursday) changes on the first day of the month and at £16 for a three-course meal, it’s well worth taking pot luck.
With four starters, four mains and three desserts, the biggest problem is selecting what to eat.
From the April menu, I plumped for an entree of sticky chicken wings with creme fraiche which were tasty, tangy and just enough to keep the hunger pangs at bay until the next course arrived.
My main dish was a 6oz Bavette steak, medium rare just as I’d ordered, but a tad on the chewy side, accompanied by some of the best fries I’ve eaten. The side order of vegetables were cooked al dente, which suited the string beans, but the cauliflower could have done with a shade longer on the hotplate.
Star of the show was the lemon tart with clotted cream, which looked like a work of art and was a taste sensation. The sugar-glaze topping crackled on the teeth, the zesty filling danced on the tongue and the pastry just melted in the mouth.
My partner was torn between a vast array of seafood dishes on the specials board and those on the dinner menu, but he settled for the latter.
His first course was cod and salmon Thai fishcakes (£6.25), with moist succulent filling, which was let down by the overcooked breadcrumb casing.
His main course was sea bass (£15.25), which arrived on a bed of prawn and lemon risotto, a perfectly cooked medley of delicately flavoured fish and zingy rice.
In the eight years since we last visited The White Horse, it’s had a dramatic makeover which has transformed it from chintzy country pub-restaurant to minimalist rustic bistro and bar, where head chef Craig Peters works his magic.
However, the stripped-down decor make the acoustics very live and conversations between diners bounce around the room. On the Monday night we visited, a noisy party of six sitting near us meant that any chance of a quiet, intimate meal a deux was nil.
Rating: Three stars
The White Horse, Badger Lane, Woolley Moor, near Ashover, DE55 6FG
Tel. 01246 590 319
Website www.thewhite horsewoolleymoor.co.uk
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday - 12 noon to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm
Sunday - 12 noon to 3pm
Food served: Monday to Saturday - 12 noon to 1.45pm and 5.30pm to 8.45pm
Sunday: 12 noon to 3pm