The Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest has been a staple of North Shore luxury lodging for the past 85 years. Over the last few years, theyâ€™ve remodelled all of their dining spaces to create three distinct atmospheres all under one roof. The English Room is the fanciest, The Bar is the most casual, but The White Hart Pub is the most inline with their 15th-century English manor home aesthetic.
Everything about it feels like youâ€™re sitting in a historic pub in the old country. Wooden support beams stretch from floor to ceiling and exposed beams cross the ceiling, as well. Weathered bound hardcover books decorate built-in shelves next to pewter mugs and a large collection of vintage toby jugs and character mugsâ€”oversized mugs depicting elaborately sculpted faces.
We were lead to the classic pub booth, right underneath the stairs of the English Room. This booth, replete with built-in shelves and cozy lighting, is the cornerstone of the pub and has existed in every iteration of the space.
We kicked off our English winter evening with the deep gravy flavors of the Lamb Meatball starter delivered in a piping hot skillet. The lamb meatballs are gently seasoned to allow them to fully accept the richness of the thick au jus gravy layering the bottom of the skillet. The fresh roasted flavors of peas and Jerusalem artichokes work beautifully with the sauce and meat.
Our second starter was a necessary deviation from British tradition and the warming flavors of Executive Chef Abderezak Khellil. The King Crab Maki from Sushi Chef Sang Lao is a consistent favorite of White Hart Pub regulars. They consist of lumps of king crab meat, avocado, shreds of carrot, and chopped asparagus, tightly wrapped in thin ribbons of cucumber. The maki sits in a tangy Sunomono dressing, and with the traditional sides of wasabi and ginger, makes for a delicious chilled starter with a bit of fresh crunch from the vegetables and a nice meaty chew from the crab.
Moving into the entrees we really went for a UK classic. Weâ€™ve had our fair share of stateside fish and chips, and the Cider Fish N Chips at the White Hart Pub is the only one that tastes like it came from a real London chippy, without any of the newspaper-wrapped greasiness. Underneath an incredible, thick, beer-battered breading is an entire flaky fish. It arrives with tartar sauce that you can move immediately off of your plate as you reach for the salt and vinegar, which are ambrosial perfection with fish and chips this authentic. The chips are the house French fries, massively thick potato wedges stacked like lincoln logs on the plate. General Manager Matt Barba scoured English B&Bs and small inns looking for ways to make the Deer Path feel authentic to its source material, and the expert fish and chips are a huge part of that.
The Big Olâ€™ Steak Sandwich is a beast. Itâ€™s two prime sirloin steaks cooked medium and stacked on top of each other with aged provolone, caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, lettuce, and tomato in between two pieces of toasted bread. I repeat, two prime sirloin steaks. The sandwich is stacked so high on the plate that we had to cut it in half and eat it open-face with a fork and knife. The steak is incredibly juicy and every fresh ingredient works to evoke the wonderful deep flavors of prime red meat.
Both the fish and chips and the sandwich were delivered on platters made of inch-thick cross sections of tree still ringed in bark. Itâ€™s a touch of personality that feels indicative of the care the Deer Path Inn puts into everything.
When the Puddings menu arrived we couldnâ€™t stop at just one. Served in a long thin dish, the Chai Creme Brulee is the perfect thing for two people to split after dinner. We each started at an end breaking through the caramelized sugar crust to get to the creamy custard. The chai tang is a welcome addition, as is the more traditional raspberry topping.
After the parade of English standards, we had to see what they did with the Sticky Toffee Pudding. So warm and filled with the flavors of dates, cake, and caramel, it was the quintessential topper to our lovely evening out. Even better, it comes with a scoop of caramel gelato in a crunchy sculpted basket made of toffee, sesame, and pralines.
The White Hart Pub is located in The Deer Path Inn at 255 E. Illinois Road in Lake Forest, 847-234-2280, thedeerpathinn.com.