Cheers from the Terrace
I’ve lived in Barnes, on and off, for thirty years or so. For the last twenty, my home has been on White Hart Lane. Much to most taxi drivers’ consternation, this is not the famous White Hart Lane, home of Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club, in Tottenham, north London, but a tiny villagey high street miles from there, on the border between Mortlake and Barnes, in an area nicknamed Little Chelsea, right by the river Thames, in Southwest London, more or less where the yearly Oxford and Cambridge boat race ends.
Historically part of Surrey, Barnes appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Berne’. In the early part of the 18th century many foreigners assembled here, especially Huguenot refugees, and the many blue name plaques on the houses attest to this. Until the mid 19th century, the market gardens of London were to be found in this then very rural area. Many notable names such as the alchemist and diplomat John Dee, the ballerina Ninette de Valois, the rock star Marc Bolan and the actor Robert Pattinson have resided here over the years. It’s a picturesque area with much greenery, historic houses and little railway cottages, and yet it’s only 30 minutes from the centre of London.
My street takes its name from the old riverside inn, The White Hart, originally built here right in the curve of the river in 1660. The location of the pub is pretty spectacular with balconies, a terrace and a riverside area perfect for watching the pleasure cruisers and the ducks and swans glide past, while partaking in a quick snifter or a tasty bar snack. Still, history shmistory and the sheer loveliness of it all, I am just not a pub person. Not for me the Friday evening drinks or the salt and vinegar crisps, the crowded rustic bar or the muddy towpath, not even the hunky rowers or the well-to-do locals out for a jolly, it all leaves me as cold as a polar bear on an ice flow. You can, therefore, well imagine my level of enthusiasm when the Lovely Husband suggested dinner at their fairly recently refurbished ‘dining room’, the Terrace Kitchen! I had visions of chicken in a basket and bottles of sticky sauce, in a dark and dingy back room smelling of beer and frying oil. Still, I let myself be dragged along, more or less by my hair. Once in a while one has to humour one’s spouse, don’t you think?
Reluctantly I stomped through the busy pub and up the stairs to the first floor. To my complete surprise, I found a wonderfully bright and airy room with huge French windows on to a balcony overlooking the river, the setting sun giving it a golden hue, a wooden floor with pale Gustavian style furniture, a very attractive light grey colour scheme with touches of yellow and green, clever lighting and invitingly well laid tables! The sophisticated compact menu was as unexpected as the welcoming atmosphere. Simply amazing! So far, so good. Now bring on the food!
We chose the White Hart Cure Smoked Salmon, Pickled Shallots and Cucumber Jelly as a shared starter. This arrived split on to two plates and as delicious as it was beautifully presented. Refreshing, interesting and the half portion just enough to tickle the taste buds. The Lovely Husband’s main course of Seabass, Saffron Potatoes in a Mussel and Chorizo Broth went down a treat too, with the chorizo giving the gentle fish that little extra bit of flavour and punch. Although this dish came with peas, the LH had a very nice side order of Smoked Beets, Tenderstem Broccoli and Toasted Almonds.
Rather than picking one of the listed main courses, I fancied another starter, the Venison Carpaccio, Lancashire Bomb and Horse Radish, with a side of Sweet Potato, Rocket and Pomegranate Salad, the pomegranate on this occasion being replaced by roasted beets. It turned out to be a superb combination of textures and tastes, light and healthy and plenty enough for me.
While we were sipping our chilled white wine and relishing the food, the river meandered by in full glorious view, reflecting the twinkling stars above, as the sky darkened and night set in. The fresh Scandinavian look of the restaurant gradually metamorphosed into a glowing romantic cocoon suspended above the Thames.
What better way then to round off such an evening than with a final treat?!
Out of the four desserts on offer, all of them thoroughly enticing, we finally decided on the Pinot Noir Plum and Almond Tart with Vanilla Cream. I was rather expecting something plummy, juicy and tart but this was more bakewelly in taste, though the pastry was quite fantastic and the vanilla cream very light and not too sweet.
What can I say? I was blown away by all the joys and pleasures of the White Hart Terrace Kitchen, all the more so, because they were so completely unexpected. This is about as far as you can get from a typical pub dining room and very much worth a visit, irrespective of whether you want a drink in the pub beforehand or not. It offers a lovely ambience, a fabulous view and last but certainly not least, a quite impressive culinary experience.
Service was friendly and efficient throughout. Our final bill came to £71.30 including a bottle of wine and a cup of after dinner coffee but not including service.
The Terrace Kitchen at The White Hart, The Terrace, London SW13 0NR Tel.: 020 8876 5177 www.whitehartbarnes.co.uk/terrace-kitchen