Backcountry gentility, plus great burgers
By Jonnie Bassaro
Updated: 11/11/2009 08:28:41 AM EST
Wendy Burcket worked for the Marbledale Pub for 26 years.
"It was like a home away from home," she says of the tavern and family restaurant. She stayed on when it was sold and turned into The White Horse Country Pub.
"The transformation has been incredible," she says. "It was completely gutted and rebuilt from the ground up."
John Harris, a native of England who has owned and designed restaurants in London, New York City and Westport, is responsible. He bought the pub in December 2008, closed it for six months and re-opened it in June to drop-jaw reactions.
The former neighborhood tavern now has backcountry gentility -- cathedral ceilings with beams transplanted from a Vermont barn, museum-quality artifacts on walls, a huge inviting fireplace in the bar, and most importantly, two decks overlooking the East Aspetuck River.
"He installed large windows so you can now see the river," Burcket says. "I don't think anybody even knew the river was there before."
A friend and I had the pleasure of viewing the bubbling Aspetuck as we sat beside one of the new windows for a recent lunch.
We should mention the Marbledale had a reputation for good food, and that reputation continues with the new ownership.
Of course, you must expect British touches on the menu. You'll find Shepherd's Pie, along with fish and chips, English trifle, and Bangers & Mash (pork sausages with mashed potatoes and onion gravy).
Chef Fabrice Denis, who is French and the son of two Paris chefs, has other surprises up his sleeve, such as crepes filled with chardonnay-sauteed chicken, wild mushrooms and shallots.
I sampled his handmade wild mushroom ravioli, served at both lunch and dinner. Rather than the usual tomato-sauce topping, the pasta had been treated to lots of butter, onions, garlic, black olives and diced fresh tomatoes. What a delight.
My friend ordered a special that day, Fettucine with Shrimp. Large shrimp had been sauteed and tossed with tomatoes, garlic and butter. She relished every bite.
Two salads to consider at lunch are the Warm Goat Cheese, baked Montrachet wrapped in puff pastry and served upon mixed greens. Or there's the British Raj Chicken, curried chicken tossed with dried apricots, golden raisins, cranberries, walnuts and celery with a chutney mayonnaise. Served over greens, it's a favorite here.
French onion soup topped with a layer of Gruyere is another good choice as a starter. So are the crab cakes.
At dinner, you may dine on lamb shanks, slow-braised all afternoon in red and white wines for extra tenderness. Or there's a rack of ribs, also slow-cooked and served with a spicy sauce.
For something elegant, salmon is baked in parchment with champagne, herbs and orange segments, then served on couscous.
Of course, there are lots of steaks and burgers. The nice thing about a pub is that you can order a simple burger and fries for dinner, a nice thing to know in this economy.
Desserts are ridiculously rich and lavish. Banoffi Pie brought to mind my family's luscious banana pudding. There's also Rhubarb Fool and Bourbon Bread Pudding.
THE WHITE HORSE COUNTRY PUB Route 202, Marble Dale, Washington Township TELEPHONE: 860-868-1496 www.whitehorsecountrypub.com HOURS: Lunch daily 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dinner daily 4:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. RESERVATIONS: Accepted for parties of six or more CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted. PRICES: Appetizers $6.75 to $9.25. Dinner entrees $13.75 to $18.75. Luncheon entrees $9.50 to $16.75. Sunday brunch entrees $7.50 to $14.50 with salmon priced slightly higher. Desserts $5 to $7. WHEELCHAIR ACCESS For more from Jonnie Bassaro, visit www.newstimes.com/food.