The White Bear

25th March 2016

Ickenham Road • Ruislip • HA4 7DF • 01895 679770

Review by Jill Glenn

There’s a pleasant, mellow atmosphere in Ruislip’s The White Bear, part of the ever expanding White Brasserie empire: traditional pubs with a French brasserie-style menu. The muted colours, the soft lighting all create a relaxed welcoming feel, as does the service from some of the most charming staff in the business.

The menu is extensive, with mouth-watering descriptions that set the tastebuds tingling before the food is anywhere near the table. My starter of pan-fried smoked Morteau sausage, white wine potato salad, poached free range egg and curly endive is a more-than-generous portion, although it’s surprisingly light. The sausage is thinly sliced and strongly flavoured, and the egg perfectly poached so that the yolk oozes out richly, adding interest on the eye and on the palate. After a few mouthfuls I come upon the potato salad, which I’d forgotten about. The white wine dressing adds good lift. This is a really delicious dish.

Opposite me, hand-cut, home-smoked Shetland Isles salmon tartare, served with egg yolk, caper and cornichon dressing and three of the thinnest slices of toasted baguette, is a neat and delicate offering. The tartare is very light, with the creaminess well balanced by the sharp touches of the cornichons and the capers.

My guest follows with roast Barbary duck breast, leg confit, Dauphinoise potato and pot-roasted carrots, with red wine and blackberry sauce. The breast – which can so often be dry – melts in the mouth; cooked pink, it’s just right. The confit is not too fatty, and gets ten-out-of-ten. The carrot adds sweetness, and the blackberry sauce – subtle, rich and deep – draws the whole plateful together.

My roast hake fillet, served with poached Shetland mussels, squid, new potaotoes, wilted kale and saffron sauce, is a joy to behold and to eat. The sauce has a wonderful, unexpected kick, and I’m pleased to report, I’ve been provided with a spoon to ensure not a mouthful of it goes to waste. The squid, always at risk of being rubbery, is very tender, and the mussels confer that indefinable something of the sea. The kale, while not exactly wilted, is flavourful and adds texture (and a good dose of vitamins and antioxidants). I’d venture that the hake might be just a soupçon overcooked, but for a matter of seconds, and it’s still delicious. It stands up well to the sauce.

For dessert I order chocolate fondant with pistachio icecream from the specials board: a thing of beauty, with a seductive amount of rich, dark molten sauce and the palest of ice creams to offset it. It’s my understanding that this is largely for me, and that the second spoon I’ve requested is merely so that my companion can sample a taste or two, on the grounds that she ‘doesn’t really like chocolate puddings’. This proves not to be true. I have to fight for an equal share of this most chocolatey of desserts. There’s no justice.

Presentation throughout is simple but effective. The components of each dish are not artfully presented, although they have been placed with care. This is food to eat, not an art installation. With a nod to the rustic, the plates are in soft greys, creams and browns, which suits the style of the cuisine much more than those sharp white that so many establishments seem to be embracing today. Everything here ­– indeed, in White Brasserie pubs overall – feels carefully thought through, aimed towards the production and preservation of a cosy, inviting and unpretentious image.

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