Costessey: The Harte

New life has been breathed into The Harte which reopened as a food focused community pub earlier this year. RACHEL BULLER enjoys some no-nonsense tasty pub grub.

With village pubs closing by the bucket load, it is always good to see one re-opened, refurbished and trying to establish itself as a place to come for food, not just for locals but for those living further afield.

The Harte in Old Costessey reopened its doors earlier this year and started doing food shortly after.

Now at this point I should declare an interest in the success or failure of this pub as I live in the village. Having walked past it countless times without bothering to enter it during its past incarnations, I wasn't convinced that much would have changed.

However, the simple refurbishment by its new owners – a good lick of paint and lots of freshly sanded chunky wood – combined with the decision to serve food seems to have changed the whole personality of the place.

We are not talking fancy gastro-pub experimental cuisine. This is straight-talking, no-nonsense pub grub, but that is a good thing.

Steak and chips, risotto, Thai curry, sausage and mash and chicken liver pate are regulars on the menu along with some specials – such as a hearty bowl of Irish stew accompanied by a pint of Guinness on St Patrick's Day.

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That might not sound hugely exciting or innovative, but it never ceases to amaze me how many places do simple food so badly.

And when simple food is done well, little can beat it.

It isn't a huge menu, five starters, seven mains and four desserts, but there is plenty of variety to suit even the fussiest of palates.

Torn between the garlic mushrooms on toast with a poached egg and the goat's cheese and beetroot salad as a starter, I decided on neither. Instead I persuaded my husband to share a bowl of beer battered onion rings.

Admittedly not a conventional starter, but a grand choice. They were crispy, full of flavour, chunky and just plain delicious – and for just �2 from the side orders menu, a great snack to go with your pint in place of a bag of pork scratchings.

For main course, I went for the steak and Adnams ale pie with puff pastry, mash potato and seasonal vegetables and my husband went for the rib eye steak, served with roasted tomato, grilled mushroom, chips and peppercorn sauce.

The portions were incredibly generous and had that unmistakable taste of good home cooking. The steak and ale pie was packed with favour and the filling was tender and melted in the mouth. Best of all, the puff pastry lid was as light as a feather. The mash tasted like the mash your mum would make and was well seasoned and creamy and the vegetables were well cooked with a good bite left in them.

As for the steak, it was cooked perfectly – medium/rare, and was, my husband tells me, incredibly tender. The chips were crisp and plentiful, the mushroom and tomato were tasty but as you would expect and the peppercorn sauce added some heat to the flavour of the dish.

For dessert I went for the triple chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, although it was a close call with the rhubarb and apple crumble.

The brownie was rich and tasty and really chocolaty, my only grumble, and it is only a tiny one, was that it was neither hot nor cold, more tepid. With the delicious chocolate sauce and the coldness of the ice cream it would have been even nicer if it was hot and all those lovely gorgeous ingredients melted in together.

A top meal and judging by the comments of other diners in there, they seem to agree. Main courses are priced between �7.25 and �7.95, apart from the steak which is �12.50; starters are between �3.75 and �4.95 and desserts are all �4.

It is hard to find a good local pub serving freshly home cooked food in an unpretentious fashion in unpretentious surroundings. I really hope The Harte can keep up the great work.

The Harte

Townhouse Road

Old Costessey


01603 742755

Prices: Starters from �3.75, mains from �7.25, desserts �4

Vegetarian options: Plenty

Wheelchair access: Yes