Food review - The White Hart, Lydgate
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 October 2019
This quaint country pub is onto a Shaw thing, as Emma Mayoh discovered
I think one of my good pals is probably onto me. It was just over a year ago she moved house to Lydgate, a tiny village just outside Oldham. Since then I've made the regular almost two-hour drive to visit her perhaps a little bit more than I had done previously. It is, of course, not at all related to the fact her move put her five doors down from The White Hart at Lydgate.
It is a place that's worth the journey, though, whether it's just a few steps away or a sizeable drive. It's a pub that has managed to navigate that delicate balance between providing a great place for the locals to love - which they do - and creating a special dining experience worth travelling for. The White Hart successfully walks the line between being a welcome home for the local WI group, an end point for walkers who have spent the day traversing Saddleworth Moor and a place of pilgrimage for food lovers.
And they come in their droves. Its reputation as one of the best places to eat in the north continues to grow and it has already been recognised by every food guide you can think of. It's also a favourite of chefs in the know.
It's not always been a pub - the main building dates back to 1788 and has been a police station as well as a lookout point in the Second World War. On the night we visited it welcomed everyone from locals out for a quiet drink and a bar snack to large groups celebrating a special occasion. There were other, too of course, who had come purely for the reputation of the food. Change and innovation, without reinventing the wheel, have played a role in The White Hart at Lydgate's past and continues to be a big part of its future.
It's been down to the hard work of head chef Mike Shaw and his kitchen team, along with the vision of owner Charles Brierley. Since taking it on 25 years ago, Charles has extended and transformed this lovely old building. Mike has taken the flair he learned working with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir Aux Quat's Saison and as head chef at Lakes culinary institution Gilpin and used it to create perfect plates far beyond the usual premises of traditional pub food.
The dishes created here are special. A starter of vivid coloured mango layered on crabmeat, deliciously flavoured with coriander to give it a surprising and pleasantly powerful kick, started proceedings well. My traditional lamb main was well executed but I did find myself pining for the flavoursome tagine ordered by my dining partner. I managed to steal a forkful - divine. But we drew level - and found our stars of the show - with our desserts of blackcherry posset and the most wonderful triangle of caramel tart. It's unsurprising when Mike worked as a pastry chef with Gordon Ramsay.
What Charles and Mike have created in Lydgate is something quite extraordinary. And it's a partnership that is clearly working.
It is arguable Mike may be one of the best but most under the radar chefs our region boasts - Lydgate have something truly special in The White Hart.
The White Hart, 51 Stockport Road, Lydgate, Oldham, OL4 4JJ