‘Varsity’ re-opens as ‘The White Horse’: Food review

AS SOMEONE who lives just around the corner from Portland Street, the rejuvenation work on the building that once housed the popular ‘Varsity’ bar and restaurant has been practically unavoidable. In the lead up to the big re-opening on February 21st 2015, the building interior and exterior were surrounded with the hustle and bustle of busy workers re-arranging and redecorating, working hard to create a new and exciting bar and dining experience. The building has now re-opened, with a new look and feel, and has re-established itself as ‘The White Horse’ (a name that it held during its time as a hotel before becoming ‘Varsity’).


Photo – Tomos Nolan

Shortly after its opening, I and two equally hungry flatmates decided to venture to ‘The White Horse’ to sample the new menu. The new interior that greeted us was comfortable and modern, with framed photographs of scenes around Aberystwyth; funky chandeliers; and a new lick of paint, all adding up to a relaxed, inviting atmosphere. The upstairs seating area where we decided to sit was particularly plush, with a wall mounted TV, sofa chairs and pleasant views of the streets outside. The menu had a vast array of food choices and as someone who is awful at making decisions, I found choosing a meal a bit of a struggle. I wouldn’t say this was a detriment though, as I think there are enough choices to keep people enthused to try new dishes. The new menu features sandwiches, pasta, chicken and vegetarian dishes, alongside classics such as fish and chips and burgers. The ‘two meals for £8’ deal remains, which is useful for those wanting a cheaper meal. My two flatmates went for this deal, with one ordering scampi and chips, the other a bacon and cheese burger with chips. I decided to try the ham and cheese chicken escalope with chips and salad.

The meals arrived surprisingly quickly, which could be taken as either a good or bad sign. The first two meals to arrive belonged to my flatmates. Unfortunately, they were not quite as impressed with their dishes as I was with mine. The scampi and chips went down fine; although the addition of some rather wilted looking broccoli rather than peas was deemed a little odd. Meanwhile, my other friend was a little unimpressed with the simple taste and smaller portion size of her burger and chips. Although I had to wait longer for my dish, it was definitely worth it. The escalope contained proper chicken breast and was deliciously crispy, with a tasty layer of oozing cheese and ham on top. The chips were ever so slightly underdone but still enjoyable, whilst the dressed salad perfectly complimented the richness of the dish. For around £2 extra, there seemed to be a difference in quality of the dishes, so I would recommend going for the £6 pounds plus dishes in order to have a really enjoyable meal.

Next came our puddings, which received a thumbs up all around. I decided to have the ‘Raspberry Blondie’. I had previously had this pudding at the establishment when it was ‘Varsity’ and it was absolutely decadent. It was just as I remembered; rich and creamy cheesecake with tart raspberries, ice cream and a crunchy, buttery biscuit base (I’m sorry if I’ve just caused ‘Masterchef’s’ Greg Wallace to enter your head now). One flatmate decided to plump for the ‘Cookie Cup Explosion’, whilst the other went for a whopper of a pudding in the form of a cookie pizza. After a somewhat disappointing main meal, my flatmate practically fell in love with her ‘Cookie Cup Explosion’, filled with gooey chocolate, honeycomb and a side of ice cream. Similarly, my other flatmate enjoyed her cookie pizza covered in brownie chunks and marshmallow. There was even enough ‘pizza’ left to take home, it was so large. Two of our desserts were part of a ‘2 for the price of 1’ pudding deal, which we felt was a great deal to have on offer.

Overall, for three meals and three puddings the bill came to around £20, which we felt was quite reasonable. In conclusion, I would definitely recommend trying out ‘The White Horse’ and its new menu, particularly the pudding offers. It’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a reasonably cheap meal with friends.