Review: The White Lion Hotel, Hebden Bridge
It’s early days for a newly revived venue in the Calder Valley. There’s plenty to work on, but plenty of potential, too.
The White Lion Hotel has a long history. The building dates from 1657, making it possibly the oldest building in Hebden Bridge. Long a local landmark as a coaching inn, the White Lion is under new management and, after being closed for what seems like an eternity, has just reopened as a pub and restaurant with rooms.
Walking in, the White Lion has managed a decent trick: it’s still cosy enough to work as a pub, but it’s bright and smart enough to work as a restaurant, too. Clearly, the ambition is to attract both a local trade and visitors and, superficially, they’ve got a lot right with the decor.
However, the food and service aren’t up to scratch - yet. My landlord’s steak and ale pie looked the part, but the contents were less like rich beef and vegetables in gravy and more like a fairly thin beef soup. A bit of judicious blending of pastry lid and soup saved the day, but it wasn’t the rich delight I was hoping for. Admittedly, the mushy peas on the side were the best I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t even like mushy peas.
Meanwhile, my companion - the mother-in-law to be precise - had a beef stew with horseradish dumpling. Again, it was a bit thin. It was better than your average pub grub, but I fancy the White Lion wants to be more than that.
Puddings were raspberry creme brulee - given a more positive-than-it-sounds ‘okay’ by the mother-in-law, who seemed to enjoy it - and a too-clever-by-half rhubarb and ginger crumble. It wasn’t what I what I would call a crumble. Instead it was a quite tart rhubarb soup with crunchy bits scattered on top. Some of this tasted like caramelised chunks of sugar - hard to break through then sticky as hell - a test for any filling or denture fixitive. But they weren’t mean with the ginger.
The ‘caffetiere’ of coffee was actually a teapot filled with the kind of weak coffee that would be fine drunk by the gallon in an American diner but wasn’t the kind of pick-me-up you expect at the end of a meal. The mother-in-law was not impressed, and she’s as easy-going as they come about restaurants.
If that all sounds like a thumbs-down, it’s not. The staff were friendly even if the food was a little slow coming out. The atmosphere was nice and there’s definitely the potential for the White Lion to give Hebden Bridge’s current posh spot - Moyles - a run for its money. Lunch - minus booze - was £37, so really not too bad. It was also the White Lion’s first Sunday service; if it was a West End play, it would still be at the ‘preview’ stage with ‘first night’ a couple of weeks away. It’s definitely worth another look. We’ll be back at Christmas, and hopefully a few of the little wrinkles will be sorted out by then.