Food & Drink

Bears, bees and hamlets

16 May 2024

If you want to feel like you’re in the middle of the countryside, The White Bear is the pub for you. Nestled in a hamlet called Fickleshole (no I haven’t made it up), between Warlingham and New Addington, it resides in Surrey, just a stone’s throw from the Croydon boundary, and it is a mere 15 minutes drive from the centre of Croydon.

This Grade II listed pub (or should I say Inn) has been here amongst the fields since the 16th century, so it’s no surprise, as a Croydon native, that I’ve been visiting The White Bear since I was a child (a bit later than the 16th century!)

In recent years however, the food, decor and service had become a bit lacking, which was a shame as the pub itself is so cosy and in such beautiful surroundings. The perfect setting for a winter warmer by an open fire, or an iced summer beverage in the garden. Therefore I was happy to hear last summer that a new owner (Honeycomb Houses) was giving the pub a makeover and I was excited to visit upon its reopening just before Christmas.

I’ve now dined at The White Bear in its new incarnation several times with consistently good food, so it seems an appropriate time to give it a review.

Firstly, a bit about the new owners. Honeycomb Houses run ten historic pubs in picturesque locations from Gloucestershire to Surrey, and they are a recent addition to the Brakspear family, a company that’s been in the beer and pub trade for over 200 years. So I’m hoping The White Bear will be in safe hands for many years to come.

On to the pub itself.

Let’s start with the setting. The refurb has reinvigorated the interior, as it now has a different layout. There is a new main dining area which opens directly onto the garden, meaning a seamless blend between indoor eating and alfresco dining. The quirky smaller oak-beamed rooms are retained which means the pub hasn’t lost the cosy vibe for the winter months where you can dine by the fireside. And don’t worry, the white bear statue still stands guard out front.

As for the food, on my most recent visit last week, we rather went to town as we were celebrating Angela’s birthday. So we went for three courses, with some prosecco to start and a rather nice bottle of Sauvignon to accompany the food.

If you have read any of my previous food reviews you’ll know I have a ‘thing’ about olives. They are a ‘must-have’ if they appear on any menu. I could talk to you in depth about which types of olives (in my opinion) are superior to others (I won’t bore you now…). A friend joked recently that I could perhaps have my own restaurant rating system of ‘olives’ rather than stars. If so, The White Bear would get ‘five olives’!

So in addition to the perfectly marinated olives, to start we ordered beetroot & rosemary hummus with blue corn tortilla, rosemary & potato sourdough with sea salt, truffle butter, and cauliflower wings with hoisin dressing and seaweed. Yes we were hungry. It was all exquisitely presented, and each dish had a memorably yummy quality. The beetroot hummus was so moreish, the sourdough deliciously warm, and the cauliflower wings a tasty fusion of flavours.

For our mains, Angela chose chestnut & wild mushroom pie with root vegetable mash, tender stem broccoli, and vegan gravy. I’m told the dish was just the right balance of comfort and delight. I went for miso glazed cod with king oyster mushroom, and soy dressed rice noodles. Both succulent and delicate, the dish well complemented the cauliflower that came before.

Although we were pretty full by this point we couldn’t resist trying to squeeze in desserts. All the portions were generous so finishing the desserts defeated us. However both our choices were divine. Angela’s – a chocolate mousse with macaroon, and blue vanilla ice cream (yes, blue!) – was both decadent and delightful. Mine – a banoffee sundae with banana gelato, coconut yoghurt, and coconut granola – was right up my street, as it had a nod to ‘breakfast’, albeit a super indulgent version (I would always choose breakfast, over lunch and dinner – just so you know!). It was sweet and creamy with just the right amount of crunch.

All in all, a lovely meal. We’ll be booking again in the not too distant future, to sample their Sunday roasts and take advantage of their beer garden in the summer sun (which is hopefully coming soon!)

The White Bear is located on Fairchildes Rd, Fickleshole, Warlingham CR6 9PH.

Find out more on their website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Photos by the Croydonist.

Posted by Julia

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