Husband and wife team Jake and Cassie White are packing in the crowds with their locally grown produce at the remote Pentonbridge Inn on the Scottish Borders. Andy Lynes reports
The Pentonbridge Inn is set on a desolate T-junction, 15 miles north of Carlisle and close to the Scottish Borders. On an early Saturday evening, Netherby Road, which leads to the inn, winds through the rural landscape, dotted with just a few houses. I fully expect to be the only diner, but I arrive to find a packed car park and an interior full of life.
"We always thought it was going to be successful because there isn't anything in this area that goes out of its way to be really special," says Jake White, who runs the kitchens with wife, Cassie. The couple previously worked together in London for Marcus Wareing at Marcus at the Berkeley, where they were head chef and pastry chef respectively, and they opened the restaurant and pub with nine bedrooms in September 2017.
n addition to getting out of London and being closer to their families in the Lake District, White says the site's links with nearby stately home Netherby Hall and its 1.5 acres of Victorian walled garden were a major draw.
"Growing produce is something we've never had time for before. Now we've got potatoes, beetroots and carrots, which we clamped [stored under earth] and kept from last year, and we're getting some micro herbs through. The gardeners are propagating tomatoes and strawberries, the glasshouses are being restored and hopefully we'll be able to make use of them this year."
He says the inn was previously "a real dive of a pub", and the work to transform it into its new glass, timber, slate and stone guise took much longer than expected. "Because the build was postponed, we spent six months writing the menu and arguing. After the first night, we were sick of the sight of the menu and from then we started changing it every single day. Now we're open for lunches it's a little bit harder to get the mise en place done."
The Whites and their core team of three chefs have now settled on weekly changing menus. In the 28-cover restaurant, they offer a 3/3/3 Á la carte menu at lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Saturday, as well as a tasting menu, a vegetarian menu and a Sunday set lunch.
e pub seats an additional 20-25 customers and offers a 4/4/4 Á la carte menu, served seven days a week at lunch and dinner. Dishes include fish cakes with sweet chilli sauce (£5), and beef and ale pie with mash (£12), in contrast to the more sophisticated restaurant fare, such as langoustine with dashi-poached parsley root. The latter dish is a particular favourite of the chef.
"We make a dashi stock - a seaweed broth - and add bonito flakes, which gives it its smokey flavour. We poach the parsley root in the dashi and reduce it and add a bit of butter to glaze it. We make a nori crumb with crispy cabbage, roasted pine nuts, and dried cep and thyme. The fresh Passe Crassane pear is quite acidic and astringent in the skin, and we add some sort of fresh nut - it's walnuts at the moment."
It's an adaptable dish that can be served year-round by substituting ingredients: the parsley root will be replaced by white asparagus in the spring, and in the summer fresh green almonds will take the place of walnuts. White also serves a vegetarian version with the seafood element swapped for a soft poached hen's egg or roasted wild mushrooms.
it makes an appearance in a number of the savoury dishes, which White says is something of a theme. This winter, he paired venison from Emma Boyes at Millbank Parkland Venison, who farms fallow deer about 30 minutes away in Dumfries, with rhubarb from Tomlinson's in Yorkshire, and served it with salt-baked celeriac and purée, red onions, caramelised shallots, foie gras dressing and a sauce made with verjus and the rhubarb cooking liquor.
"When we tasted the meat, we were taken aback by how tender it was. The fact that we can roast the shoulder in the same way as the loin and the rack says everything about the quality. Normally you'd have to braise or confit it."
With rave reviews appearing in the national press, the Whites have clearly made a splash with their first venture. Not bad for a pub in the middle of nowhere.
From the menu
- Salmon, lobster, dashi-poached parsley root, pear, nori
- Cauliflower, horseradish, chicory and turnip
- Celeriac, chestnut soup, blood orange, lardo
- Halibut, mussels, gnocchi, salsify
- Shorthorn beef fillet, Jerusalem artichoke, January King cabbage, peppercorn sauce
- Millbank Parkland venison, potato, onion and quince
- Apple tarte tatin with Madagascan vanilla ice-cream, to share between two people
- Malted milk baked custard, whisky, blood orange
- Roasted pineapple, coconut, rum, doughnut
Two courses, £35; three courses, £45
Pentonbridge Inn, Penton, Carlisle CA6 5QB
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In