Dominic Chapman has struck out on his own after a long stint as head chef of the Michelin-starred Royal Oak. This White Waltham pub dates back to 1854 and has been going ever since despite burning down once. It was apparently popular with servicemen in World War 2 when White Waltham was an RAF airfield base. The dining room looks out over the local cricket pitch. Although quite picturesque, the drawback of this location was shown by one of the pub windows, which had just been cracked by a six struck by one of the players.
The wine list has expanded considerably since my last visit, starting at £17 but with more ambitious offerings now too. Example labels were Coopers Creek Riesling 2014 at £31 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £12, Mauro Molino Barolo 2011 at £66 compared to its retail price of £27, and Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 at £165 for a bottle that will set you back £56 in a shop.
The menu here is particularly appealing, with plenty of attractive sounding dishes. A Scotch egg had a quail egg at its centre, the pork filling having good flavour and the outside crisp, the dish nicely seasoned (14/20). Lasagne of wild rabbit with wood blewits and chervil was excellent, the pasta delicate and the wild rabbit avoiding any hint of the drying out that can so often be an issue with this meat. The mushrooms had strong and distinctive flavour and were a good foil for the bunny (15/20).
Cornish turbot was roasted and served with potato gnocchi, buttered cabbage, mushrooms and bacon. This was a precise piece of fish cookery, the turbot having good flavour and the gnocchi having pleasing texture, the hint of bacon just lifting the flavour (14/20). I also tried a little of my companion’s breast of Devonshire duck with braised peas, bacon and wild garlic with roasting juices. The duck was cooked pink and had good flavour but I was particularly impressed with the peas, which were very tender and nicely flavoured with the garlic and bacon (15/20).
Apple tart was made using Cox apples and came with vanilla ice cream. The pastry was good and the ice cream excellent (14/20). Lemon posset came topped with raspberries and with an Eccles cake to one side. The balance of this was improved compared to the time I tried it here last time; on this occasion there was sufficient acidic balance from the lemon (14/20).
Coffee was Musetti, which although it was properly made is a very common but quite basic brand of coffee; there are higher quality coffee suppliers than this. The bill came to £53 a head with just water to drink. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head would be around £70. The cooking at The Beehive seemed more consistent today than in the early days of my first visit here, and the combination of pretty location, attractive menu and capable cooking is clearly working: on a Wednesday lunch the place was packed.