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Odds on favourite

Into the winner's enclosure! A lovely rural pub with a great local rep, near Banbury and the Northants border.

A thoroughbred of a pub in North Oxfordshire. Whoa there girl!

THE LOCATION

Close to the chi-chi village of Deddington in North Oxon, and for the more practically minded, a couple of miles from Banbury (and 25 minutes from Bicester Village), The White Horse nestles on the green of the pretty village of Kings Sutton, with its thatched cottages, dark honey stone and 12th century church. Conveniently, the village has its own train station so it’s perfectly possible to hop on the Chiltern Line and have a boozy lunch before being woken by the conductor (or possibly your children)  on the way home.

pub beer garden wooden picnic benches white parasol ivy on brick wall

The pub has a shallow verandah at the front of the pub for outdoor drinking and eating – a lovely spot in summer – but no garden to speak of, so most of fun here is to be found inside the pub itself.

THE VIBE

mind your head sign written on low ceiling of pub interior
Relaxed, friendly, local, but professionally run – these guys know what they’re doing. Owners Julie and Hendrik (who is also chef) opened in 2013 and have won 2 AA rosettes for the food, but I think you’ll also like the look of the place, particularly the bar area with its sofa corner, gin collection and sweeping bar.

bronwn leather sofa with matching arm chai Union Jack cushion pink chequered cube stools around wooden coffee table brick wall black chalkboard hanging on wall

shelves of glass bottles of different artisan gins

The atmosphere in the restaurant area to the back of the pub is more grown up, reflected by the design elements of muted walls and a kind of farmhouse dining vibe – think wooden tables, mismatched chairs, a logburner on the go and art on every wall, largely of the white horse or local photography variety.

brown leather sofa against walll in front of long table with white chairs opposite

round wooden table with chairs around it

round mirror on brick will wooden table set with glasses and cutlery

white panels on wall big clock on wall restaurant tables and chairs  great walls wood burner against wall wooden dinning tables blue chairs


SCOFF & QUAFF

wooden block with butter in small white dish wooden spreader

You’ll be pleased you ate here – it definitely puts the gastro into pub, doing the basics well and also creating a twist on the classics so steak and chips becomes a beef fillet with roasted bone marrow, beer-braised onions and beef-dripping chips, and the ham, egg and chips I ordered for lunch was presented as a maple cured gammon ‘rib eye’ with fried hens egg, pineapple chilli chutney and chips. Just a bit more interesting and showing some thought in the kitchen.

books in bookshelf above dining table and chairs beige wall

But first the entree. The White Horse version of a Wardorf salad with Oxford Blue cheese, apple, celery, walnuts and endive (£5.95) and it was absolutely delicious with the walnuts candied and crisp and a beautiful presentation, below.

walnut and rocket salad on round grey plate

The gammon, egg and chips could have done with an extra egg for me – I’m a bit piggy like that – but I loved the pineapple chilli chutney as a the sweet, fiery balance to the meat.


Dessert was Elderflower cream with strawberries, lavender, white chocolate and strawberry sorbet. I think the inclusion of lavender cinched it for me when I ordered it as it sounded so fragrant and unusual and it was delicious, if a little sweet for my palette. Next time I’ll order the vanilla and passion fruit cheesecake with coconut ice-cream.

crumble topped with raspberries in square white dish silver spoon

The restaurant is open Wednesdays to Sundays, including lunches, but the Deli Bar is open every day from 10.30am – 10.30pm – think charcuterie platters, cheeses, that kind of thing.

For kids, there’s a limited but well-chosen menu of palette pleasers, from cottage pie to fish and chips.

OUT AND ABOUT

large fortified manor house next to a lake

Let’s get this rural party started! What’s that, you just want to find a nice stately home to visit? Well OK, one of my favourites, the privately owned Broughton Castle (above), one of the filming locations for Wolf Hall, is 10kms away and the stunning Rousham Gardens, again privately owned and only for those 15+ (sorry those of you with young children keen on pulling heads off roses), is a 20 minute drive. The village of Deddington is definitely worthy of your attention, with Nellie & Dove fashion boutique going great guns, plus Wychwood Art Gallery, Cedar Therapy beauty salon and its own lovely 13th century church. Soho Farmhouse is 25 minutes away if you can wangle your way in.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

pink flower baskets hanging on brick wall

The car parking area – even that’s pretty

Good for: Relaxed Sunday lunchers, groups of friends, beer-and-crispers and gin-and-tonic fiends. Anyone looking for a stylish, warm rendering of a high quality country gastropub.

Not for: Those looking for ample gardens for kids to run around in – you’re opposite the green if you’re desperate but the main sell of The White Horse is within the pub itself. The ‘white horse’ art theme might tire some eyes.

££: Good value I’d say. Most starters are between £6-7, and on the mains fish and chips cost £12.50, hake bouillabaisse is £16.50, though á la carte fillet is more pricey at £25 and lamb ‘pie’ is £22. The set course lunch is a steal, £12 for two courses or three courses for £14.95.

The White Horse, The Square, King’s Sutton, Banbury OX17 3RF. Tel:  01295 812440. 

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Bucks & Oxon