Great Pub Chefs - A vision realised - John Rudden

By Tony Halstead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags White hart Greater manchester Restaurant

A bleak, run-down pub swathed in mist was not John Rudden's idea of a promising career move. But 10 years on, the White Hart is an expanding and...

A bleak, run-down pub swathed in mist was not John Rudden's idea of a promising career move. But 10 years on, the White Hart is an expanding and buzzing haunt for the foodies of north-west England. Tony Halstead reports.

John Rudden's first glimpse of the White Hart was not a promising one. It was a wet dismal day on Saddleworth Moor - which overlooks the vast conurbation of Greater Manchester -

and the bleak-looking pub was not an inviting sight.

Chef Rudden had been head-hunted by the pub's new owner, who had ambitious plans to launch an exciting food venture at

the moorland hostelry.

"The weather and the state of the pub were a big turn off," says Rudden. "It was a featureless country boozer and the swirling clouds and dank mists hardly inspired me. I think lots of other people would have thrown in the towel there and then."

But the White Hart's enthusiastic proprietor, Charles Brierley, proved a good talker and sold Rudden on his long-term masterplan for the pub.

That was back in 1995 and today, 10 years on, Brierley's vision has proved correct. Few pub food-lovers in this part of north-west England are unaware of the White Hart and the culinary delights it has to offer.

The pub's long list of awards and commendations, and its inclusion in just about every pub-food guide worthy of the name, bear testimony to the high standards Brierley and Rudden have developed.

The White Hart has metamorphosed from down-at-heel country beer stopover to complete all-rounder, offering customers

two restaurants, function rooms, bedrooms and a cosy bar that still flags up the notion of a traditional pub atmosphere.

"It was difficult for Charles and I to decide where to begin," Rudden admits. "But the launch of a good food service was imperative if we wanted to convince local people that we intended to offer something different.

"We started with a fairly straightforward brasserie menu and reopened the pub in the second week of December. Frankly we were amazed when we found ourselves fully booked over Christmas, but that proved important because it gave us

the confidence to believe we could really do something here," he explains.

The development of the White Hart progressed in stages after that, with improvements and new additions arriving on an ongoing basis.

The pub's brasserie, which can seat 70 people, offers food in an informal setting, just off the main bar in the original part of the pub building, while the restaurant,

opened five years ago, seats up to 50 and offers more of a silver-service setting.

To celebrate the White Hart's 10th anniversary under the stewardship of Brierley and Rudden, the Oak Room function

suite was opened last May. The newbuild extension, which looks out over freshly-landscaped gardens complete with

table seats on the lawn, is already proving a big attraction for weddings and other anniversary celebrations.

Ten chefs are now employed in the business, alongside five kitchen porters, who are part of a total of 50 full and part-time staff. That figure rises, depending on the number of functions held in any one week.

The kitchens can turn out 300 meals a day in a busy session, but the chefs also turn their hands to home-made bread, ice

cream, chocolates and the pub's celebrated sausages. The business has a subsidiary operation in the Saddleworth sausage Company and its bangers are sought-after items on the pub's menu, as well as being popular with takeaway customers.

Even now, Brierley and Rudden will not let the grass grow under their feet and later this year a scheme for the complete refurbishment of the restaurant will begin.

The business is also buying some cottages in the nearby village to convert into letting accommodation to supplement the White Hart's existing 12 bedrooms.

"When we look back right to the beginning, when the pub's food offering amounted to pie and peas and fish and chips, it's amazing how far we have come in just 10 years," says Rudden.

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