Travel Review: The White Horse Inn, Duns Tew, Cotswolds
- Credit: Debbie White
An Army veteran who has been frequenting the White Horse, a 17th Century coaching inn, Duns Tew, for decades, has just one answer when asked for his advice on what to do in the rural Cotswolds village.
Quick as a flash, 82 year old Peter Hancock replies: “Come to the pub!”
The White Horse first welcomed the octogenarian in 1954 - he explains: “I started coming here after I left the Army; I got kicked out, literally, as I was injured after being kicked in the leg by a horse!”
Peter’s favourite tipple at the friendly inn is Guinness, but because of declining health, he is more likely to be seen sipping a lemonade from his special chair at the bar, chatting with regulars and newcomers alike.
The night my husband and I visited the White Horse, which boasts flagstone floors and timber beams, we were made to feel very welcome as we chatted with friendly bartender George Mitchinson, Peter, and his former ‘gaffer’ at an aluminium firm, who had made a special trip from Bloxham to see the ‘good old boy’.
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After a drink at the bar, we then settled in the dining area for a meal near a roaring fire.
My husband, who tends to favour steak when we dine out, asked me: “We’re not eating vegetarian are we?”
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He recently had an entire vegetarian meal during a visit to Belgium - his first ever - at a restaurant where there was only one dish on the menu, which diners could choose in small, medium or large sizes, and it contained nothing that had previously moo-ed, bleated or baa-ed. He is still recovering from the ordeal.
Luckily, when we recently stayed at the inn, the White Horse menu offered 10oz ribeye steak, with fries, salad and garlic butter as a main, which put a relieved smile on his face.
I was worried about gluten-free options, especially after being made to feel like a nuisance at other pubs, particularly in London and in the Home Counties, where an irritated member of staff will more often than not hand over a folder containing the details of every single meal, printed in a dizzying array of tiny columns naming ingredients and possible allergens, and expect me to trawl through page after page to see if I can safely eat something.
At the White Horse, however, I was not made to feel like a source of annoyance, as staff calmly told me what was suitable, and then double-checked with the chef whether what I had chosen definitely had no gluten.
So, for starters, I had prosciutto with celeriac remoulade, while my husband chose chicken liver pate, with toast and chutney. Both were delicious - the pate “melts in your mouth”, and was not overpowered by the accompanying relish, according to my husband.
Onto the mains, and I chose bream, Jerusalem artichokes, fennel and romesco. It was easily the best bream I’ve ever had: perfectly seared, fresh and tasty. My husband happily gave the thumbs-up to his aged steak, which was served rare.
I was unable to eat dessert, as I was too full, but my husband chose what he described as the “nicest sticky date pudding I’ve ever had, because it’s light and fluffy”.
There is also an excellent selection of wines on offer at the White Horse.
After our delicious meal, we chatted with Michael Regan, who took on the inn in partnership with Josh West in August 2014. He said he was keen for the inn not to be described as a ‘gasro-pub’ - “we are a good, sound, country pub, which is at the hub of the community. We have revived it, through refurbishment, and use reliable suppliers from the local area, including lamb from the village.”
One of the best things about staying at the former coaching inn is the sheer peacefulness of the area. Instead of planes, blaring sirens and cars, we enjoyed quiet skies and just the odd clip-clop of a passing horse.
If you fancy going for a walk in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside, that option is just on your doorstep.
We did so on the afternoon we arrived, and the next day was spent driving to nearby picturesque villages, to see old homes with thatched roofs, historic churches and beautiful farmland.
By happy chance we found Cotswolds Distillery, which is well worth a visit in Stourton. Best of all, it offers free tasting of a wide array of spirits, from cream liqueur and espresso martini, to hedgegrow gin and Cotswolds Absinthe.
Bicester Village is also a relatively short drive away but when we visited at about 1pm on a Sunday, it was a struggle to find a car park, let alone enter a shop, such were the length of queues to get in. We should have stuck to having a meander through the Cotswolds countryside instead!
• The White Horse Inn, Daisy Hill, Duns Tew, OX25 6JS, Phone: 01869 340272