I moved out of the city centre of Manchester almost 10 years ago in search of a quieter life. Whilst Manchester has some of the best hotels and restaurants in the country I do prefer to support local businesses, and I discovered that sometimes those hidden gems can be found right on your doorstep, like The White Hart at Lydgate.
Built in 1788 it has a long and rich history, what was once a police station that used to hold people before they went to prison, is now a hotel, restaurant, local pub and wedding venue. One of the things I liked most about The White Hart was that anyone from any walk of life would feel at home here. If you want fine dining in an exquisite setting then the tasting menu in the Brasserie Dining Room is ideal. If you want a pint of locally brewed ale at the end of a long walk in Saddleworth Moors then come in with your dog and rest your feet by the fire in the snug. If you want a big plate of fish, chips and mushy peas on a Saturday night followed by a few drinks head to the bar. And of course if you want to treat your dear Mother to a memorable meal in the perfect country setting then the White Heart will be laying out a specially curated space in their Oak Room with a dedicated menu they are sure to love. But just to be sure, I tried it out for myself! More on that later.
My companion and I checked in via the main lobby and were told we’d be staying in ‘the cottage’ which I immediately liked the sound of. We were led through the bar, out the door and maybe 30 yards up the road to an old building that was thoroughly modern on the inside. We were immediately agape at the high ceilings adorned with magnificent wooden chandeliers and lighting on the stairs leading up to two suites. Our room was adorable, warm yellow colours were mixed in with lights blues all lit by the natural sunlight streaming through the original windows giving it such a warm feel. The high ceilings and exposed beams were evident of why it was called the cottage, you really did feel like you were in your own little country escape. With a separate single bed as well as a spacious double it would be perfect for small families and the bathroom has a free standing bath tub as well as a powerful, hot shower so it was perfect for a relaxing evening in or if like us you are having a quick refresh before nipping next door to the pub for the evening.
I was given a tour of the property by the head chef Nathan Sidebottom, who I liked right away because of his local knowledge, passion for what he does and most of all a noticeable desire to really make something of his time at the White Hart. The protégé of Michael Shaw, now head chef at MUSU which I reviewed last year, he wants to incorporate more tasting menus and private dining experiences alongside the traditional pub grub that the locals adore. The Brasserie Dining Room was beautiful, a romantic, candle-lit setting perfect for a quiet evening meal. The Oak Room and Pavilion has stunning vaulted ceiling design with central glass atrium which is light, airy and unique. This leads on to another room with a bar, wood fired pizza oven and plenty of room for food, drinks and festivities. Outside there is a huge grass area full of picnic tables which I have already vowed to come back and perch myself on for the day in the height of Summer. I have to mention the hobbit hole built into the hillside and the outside bar area called ‘Baggins Bar’ which I was a bit too excited by (but any Lord of the Rings fan would appreciate this, it’s so cool!).
It’s safe to say I was clearly impressed by the hotel and grounds but I wasn’t there for that, I was there for the greatest British invention of all time, the Sunday Roast. Now I wouldn’t normally go for three courses when I have a roast dinner but as I’ve been on a diet since January and I feel the need to review everything about a place it wouldn’t have been professional to leave a course out. I started with a beetroot tart, dark purple, thinly sliced fresh beetroot with creamy onions on the crispiest, buttery pastry that went swimmingly with the bed of rocket and sweet balsamic glaze, all complimented by the delicately baked crumbled goats cheese on top. A light yet satisfying dish. Whilst my friend opted for the traditional rump of beef I can never say no to belly pork, and I knew just from meeting Head Chef Nathan that it would be a proper chunk of meat with crispy crackling so I was salivating just thinking about it. As it arrived my prediction was correct and our wonderful waiter Florian, who is practically part of the furniture after being at the White Hart for the past 19 years, poured a thick red wine sauce all over the plate (as it should be!) of Yorkshire pudding, honey glazed carrots, fabulously crispy roast potatoes (better than I’ve had since… well I can’t remember having any better!), pickled red cabbage and apricot and pork stuffing.
It was sublime. There’s no other way of putting it, it just ticked all the boxes. Though I would say if I wasn’t having 3 courses I would want more of everything, or maybe some peas and parsnips. I had to sacrifice a roastie and a bit of meat to save room for pudding but my god I was glad because it was one of my favourite puddings of all time, jam roly poly. I’m not sure if it is exclusively northern or if it is for those of us who grew up poor but the soft, sticky suet pudding oozing with jam is what dreams are made of and this one was even better than that because it came with a pot of extra jam and home made custard that was piping hot and not in short supply.
With full bellies and onto our second bottle of wine we headed to the bar to digest and gossip. Each room in the main bar has its own log burning stove or open fire so you are cosy and warm whether you are having a quiet pint in the snug or a signature cocktail in the dining room. Every room had people in it from locals, hotel guests and those just passing through after hearing the good reviews. We both commented on how we can’t wait to bring our families here and whether I should write this good review at all as we’ll never be able to get a table!
The White Hart at Lydgate has just that, a heart. With a team of staff who all have that warm and welcoming attitude, a chef at the helm who has a hunger to feed people excellent food and an owner who has turned a former prison into a destination in itself (and likes Lord of the Rings!) I can’t wait to visit again, Mother’s Day is March 19 so get yourself booked in now to avoid disappointment.
The White Hart
51 Stockport Road