The White Hart has made the hamlet of Ford a destination for foodies thanks to its renowned steaks and a menu of high-quality pub classics, and with 11 guest rooms, diners can stay the night after a meal in the Grade II listed coaching inn. Michael Purton did just that.

On the edge of the Cotswolds, not far from Chippenham and Bath, the White Hart is the centrepiece of Ford, a small village with a population of around 600. The 16th Century stone-clad pub lies within a lush valley on an old coach way and whereas once weary travellers called in at this historic bolt-hole to refuel and recuperate, nowadays the majority of visitors are there because the venue has a sterling reputation.

With wonky oak beams, original exposed stone, a log fire and tables in every nook and cranny, the White Hart is the quintessential country inn – and the designers have clearly tried to amp up this rough-and-ready charm, opting for a mismatch of furniture, some vintage and some bespoke, and adding character with additions such as Matilda the wall-mounted boar, who both intrigues and terrifies small children with her tooth snarl.

Although the interior is full of style, it was the outside area that really struck my companion and I. There is a large courtyard which wraps around the entire inn and, with fairy lights and swing-benches overlooking the babbling brook and the valley beyond, there is a sense of romance to the atmosphere as you enjoy a drink – or meal if the weather is nice – in the fading dusk.

We stayed in one of the rooms in the old stable across the lane from the pub. The style is superb, mixing the rustic charm of the building’s history with modern comforts; exposed brickwork and wooden beams overlook a super-king-sized bed and wall-mounted flat-screen TV. While the décor choices of check-patterned fabrics, chunky wooden furniture and a soft colour palette all work together to create a simple elegance.

The only downside is that the rooms are a little cramped – due to the restrictions of the historic building rather than architectural choice, of course – and so they are not ideal if, like us, you’re accompanied by a 16-month-old boy who likes to explore. Still, it’s fair to say that The White Hart as a boutique hotel is not aimed at families – the target is couples on a romantic getaway, and the venue succeeds there.

Having said that, though, the pub does a varied kids meal and our little adventurer enjoyed toddling around the labyrinthine inn and making friends (and then enemies) with Matilda, so don’t be put off The White Hart as a child-friendly restaurant – it does that very well. Also, the staff were very friendly and accommodating (our son’s table manners need some work) and the service was prompt and accurate.

After putting our son to sleep and ensuring the baby monitor was working, we settled down at a table with a view of the brook and studied the expansive menu. With seven variations on steak, three types of roast and nine other mains including pub classics like Old Spot sausages and mash and fish and chips, and more culinary options such as pan-fried hake and poached smoked haddock, there is certainly something for every palette at The White Hart. With its reputation built on its food, we had high expectations. We were not disappointed.

We started with marinated buffalo mozzarella with fresh vegetables (£6.50) and Old Winchester, mozzarella and mature cheddar risotto with a crispy hen egg (£6.95) and both set the bar high.

For mains, she went for the poached smoked haddock with spring onion mash, curried mussel sauce and a poached egg (£12.95), while I chose the 8oz 35-day aged ribeye steak with a flat mushroom, triple-cooked chips and garlic and watercress butter (£23.95). As any wannabe food critic will tell you, getting a steak right is not easy – fortunately the chef that night was at the top of his game. It was the perfect medium-rare steak. The haddock was equally impressive, as were the accompaniments.

To finish, I slipped into a food coma via the delicious chocolate brownie with mousse and vanilla ice cream (£6.50) and she took her belt up a notch for the warm sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and clotted cream (also £6.50). Neither of us had any complaints about the excellent desserts.

The White Hart has a vast drinks menu, with over 50 choices of wine and a long list of cocktails and spirits. My companion is a Sauvignon Blanc aficionado and was impressed by the Saint Clair, 2017 Marlborough. I’m less sophisticated; more of a cider drinker, and the Aspall they served was exactly what I expected.

In the morning, after a great night’s sleep in the comfortable bed, we enjoyed breakfast back at the inn, which comprised of a decent buffet selection of cereals and fruit and cooked fare such as porridge and eggs.

As you can see, The White Hart is all that’s good about a traditional country inn – great food, friendly staff, homely décor and comfortable rooms – but it is the intelligent use of the location, with the courtyard maximised to its full atmospheric potential, that really sets the pub apart as a must-visit destination.


Rooms start from £99. See