Litchfield County, Connecticut, may not be short of picturesque, historic inns, but few are more charming than the recently reopened White Hart Inn in Salisbury. Situated on the village green in the heart of this quintessential New England town, the White Hart has served as a social and culinary hub since opening in 1806. Abruptly closed in 2010, the White Hart was recently rescued by part-time village residents Meredith and Conley Rollins, and with the help of an all-star roster of investors (that includes local writers and artists, such as Malcolm Gladwell), returned to its position as a community lynchpin.
The new incarnation is a delight on many levels, but chief among them is the food, served in both the casual Tap Room – the inn’s original tavern – and in the elegant main dining room (opening next weekend, 13 Feb). This is due in no small part to British chef Annie Wayte’s menus, some of which are inflected with UK touches (her impressive CV includes stints at Clarke’s, and she opened Nicole’s in London and Café 202 in New York and London).
Our group of six enjoyed a wonderful, wintry lunch that began with soups of the day (lentil with bacon and a delicate potato and leek puree; $8), scotch eggs with pink chorizo and panko ($7), and a warm sweet onion and gruyére tart ($8). Main dishes may sound basic, but they are anything but: hearty and artisanal grilled cheese with housemade potato crisps ($8); baked eggs with prosciutto and cheddar ($10), and a traditional ploughman’s lunch ($14). The White Hart’s version of the patty-melt burger – accompanied by thick cheddar and crispy dill pickles - might just be the most sublime version I’ve ever tasted.
On the day of our visit, the dining room was also testing new dishes and we were treated to a preview of tasting plates of crab, avocado and oro blanco salad with freshly baked chilli flatbread ($15), a hearty vegetable curry with apple raita and basmati rice ($24), and a luscious butterscotch pot de crème.
The owner/investors aim to return this landmark to its place as a community cultural hub, and talks and events are planned for the months ahead. Also in the works is a marketplace to stock up on locally sourced jams, cheeses, and chocolate.
Sadly I wasn’t staying the night, but a peek into several of the 16 rooms (example, first picture) revealed crisp white linens, enormous soaking tubs, and CO Bigelow accoutrements; temptation enough to book a return – overnight – trip.