Monday, 9 January 2012
The White Lion, Great Longstone
It took a trip up North over Christmas to remind me that while London remains the principal battleground for competing restaurant concepts (for better or for worse), there are some places removed from the relentless fads and trends of the capital that have decided the key to success is nothing more ground-breaking than serving huge portions of nice, simple food and not charging the earth for it. Places, for example, like the White Lion in Great Longstone.
In the middle of this picture book Peak District village, the kind of place that could very easily be used as a set for a Jane Austen adaptation - and in fact probably has - the White Lion is a pub serving food. There's no sharing plates, no wacky soundtrack, no Asian-Jewish fusion, no exhaustive list of the heritage and birthplace and star sign of every last carrot or potato, just a menu of British pub classics plus a few international bits and pieces, a decent and inexpensive wine list, and a couple of guest ales. There are no surprises here, no clever twists, no foams, swirls or frills. And it's no surprise, breathing a metaphorical sigh of relief to have however briefly escaped the exhaustingly experimental London restaurant bubble, I enjoyed every bit of it.
I'm afraid I forgot to take very many pictures but actually, you can probably imagine what the food looked like anyway - as I said, this was straightforward, unpretentious stuff and all the better for it. Rustic hummus (£4.50) with warm pitta was buttery and well seasoned and just about the only homemade hummus outside of a Middle Eastern restaurant I've ever enjoyed - better for example than the stuff at Hummus Bros and they do very little else. My main course of gammon egg and chips was just that, a great thick piece of pork with some choice roast veg and skin-on chips, and a vast portion for £11.50.
I have never been able to resist a Sticky Toffee Pudding once I see it on a dessert menu, and this example was up there with the best of them - moist and rich and as addictive as Sticky Toffee Crack. It's also worth noting that the White Lion serve a £4 glass of Moscato dessert wine in a 125ml glass rather than the miserly 75ml measures more usual Down South.
Back in London now, faced with the usual bewildering array of new restaurants ready to test my wallet and my waistline (in 2012 more than ever restaurateurs just seem to be throwing everything they have at us and seeing which ones stick), Great Longstone seems like a world and a half away. But however impressive the pace and imagination of the capital, it's worth remembering that sometimes all that's needed for a good time is honesty, comfort, familiarity and great big bloody portions.