The White House, Bladon
Near Blenheim Palace and happen to be starving? The White House, an award-winning, non-tradional gastropub should do just the trick.
First thing’s first, champagne quaffer extraordinaire and one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers, Winston Churchill, LEARNED TO DRINK at The White House. This modernised 16th century village pub was the Churchill family’s local.
Sadly, this historic public house was rather neglected in the intervening years. In fact, the only thing this establishment could be relied upon for, until landlord and chef, Kevin McEneaney, took over the pub’s Greene King lease five years ago, was inconsistency. Fortunately, the pub’s star is now shining brightly, and consistently, thanks to its passionate proprietor. These days, this convenient-for-Blenheim-Palace (the estate’s Bladon entrance is just around the corner) pub and kitchen boasts a light and modern interior and a carefully sourced menu, complete with casual dining and high-end options. And all the hard work has paid off for Kevin and his team, who were recently awarded the LUX Life Magazine Best Country Gastropub – Oxfordshire Award 2019.
Although not much to look at from the outside (it’s currently mid external revamp), the pub’s interior places it firmly in the non-traditional gastro-pub bracket. Sage green walls are paired with whitewashed shaker-style panelling in the barn-like dining area. Solid, Radio-2-style, pop tunes play in the background (at a very respectable volume), and amusing quotes about laughter and drinking larks are etched across the walls. Industrial lighting, whitewashed seating and soft leather armchairs give a simple and relaxed feel to the place.
Even though the high-end enough for a special lunch or family celebration, The White House is very much a family friendly pub – there’s a wooden playground next to the beer garden at the back to keep the little ones entertained – so you can sip your rosé, catch up with a friend and keep an eye on the brood.
The pub’s proximity to Blenheim means that much of the passing trade is from day-trippers looking for Fish and Chips and a pint. Recently, however, destination diners have been drawn to The White House for the sophisticated fare. Don’t panic if its child friendly casual dining you are after, though – burgers are still on the menu and the kids’ options are simple enough for even the fussiest tribe.
There are no rooms on offer at The White House … yet. However, and very prudently given the location, there are plans afoot to develop eight luxury rooms, and there has even been talk of cabins and a chef’s table. Watch this space.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The menu has expanded significantly in recent years and now spans pub classics, high-end dishes, and the ultimate crowd pleaser, pizza with options include Chorizo and Chilli, Goats Cheese and Rocket and a simple Margherita. And the three course ‘kitchen’ menu offers Hand Cut Calamari, Chorizo and Chicken Ravioli and Baked Camembert to start, followed by mains sitting very much in the ‘seasonal British’ category. The Pork Done Three Ways and the Rump of Lamb each come served with nicely al dente greens, buttery potatoes and a flavoursome jus. There is also Fish of the Day served with beurre blanc and a vegan risotto, for those after something a bit less carnivorous.
Puddings are mainly traditional – think crumble, chocolate torte and lemon tart, but the unapologetically moreish White Chocolate Cheesecake (probably don’t go if you’re even considering a diet) and Rhubarb and Custard Panna Cotta add a fresh twist to proceedings.
Kevin is an ethical chef; he recycles, doesn’t use palm oil and sources his produce carefully. The meat is from Vickers Game (where the Michelin starred restaurants in the area get theirs) and his fish is fresh from Kingfishers in Brixham. And it showed on the day I visited – the hand-cut calamari was awesome, the lamb tender and the pork richly flavoured.
The Irish chef’s passion for produce also extends to the carefully selected Wine List. For the record, Kevin recommends Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Rio Roca, to accompany his fish dishes and a bottle of the Toro Fuerte, an Argentinian Malbec, for the meatier options.
OUT & ABOUT
The Pub is five minutes walk from Blenheim’s Bladon entrance and a 15 minute drive from the centre of Oxford. Winston Churchill’s grave is opposite the pub, so why not raise a glass to this most famous of Brits at his former local after paying your respects? Woodstock itself is definitely worthy of your time for a meander round the lovely Georgian streets and indie shops (we recommend Libby Rak’s jewellery, it’s beautiful). It’s a good idea to book well in advance (or re-think your plans?!) if you’d like to eat at The White House during Blenheim’s busier periods – beware the Countryfile/Horse Trial/Christmas Lights crush!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A slap up lunch or dinner after a day at Blenheim Palace, or a little gastro tourism while the kids hit the playground.
Not for: Millennial hipsters – the interior is attractive but nothing you haven’t seen before, so don’t expect any Shoreditch residents down from London for the weekend.
The damage: Starters are £6 – £7, pizzas start at £10, and mains range in price from £13 – £20. Puddings cost £6 or £7.
The White House, 1 Grove Rd, Bladon, Woodstock OX20 1RQ. Tel: 01993 811582.
Words: Sophie McIntyre