Situated on the edge of the Cotswolds between Banbury and Bicester, The White Horse Inn in the village of Duns Tew is a stylish country bolthole. Smart modern decor with antique touches give this boutique retreat a contemporary feel.
North of Oxford, Duns Tew is only an hour from London by car and an easy journey via the M40. Once there, you’re fifteen minutes from a fashion fix at Bicester Village designer outlet centre. Or for a more cultural day out head to nearby Blenheim Palace.
In the main building the rooms above the pub are higgledy-piggledy; expect exposed beams, low doorways, sloping floors and wonky windows. Peppermint green walls are complimented by modern white furniture and vintage pieces.
The characterful rooms aren’t huge but the space has been used ingeniously with a nook for a wardrobe, an attractive antique bench providing seating under the window and the TV is wall-mounted. Free wifi, a hairdryer, tea, coffee and Blenheim Palace Estate mineral water make you feel at home.
Across an inviting outdoor seating area at the rear, and adjacent to the generous car park, there’s also a smart Cotswold-stone annexe housing a further series of rooms with the same pared-back decor but here finished with touches of tartan.
Thanks to head chef Josh West and his team the food is a big draw, ensuring that the cosy flag-stoned dining room is busy with locals and hotel guests alike (it’s worth booking a table at weekends). The daily changing menu is made up of English pub favourites including fish and chips, roast chicken and steak, and draws on seasonal produce.
We started with the chicken liver pate and Fowey mussels. The generous portion of creamy pate came with a delicious aniseed-infused pickle, gherkins and homemade crusty white toast. The mussels were large and meaty, cooked in a white white and cream sauce and finished with thyme.
For mains we opted for venison pie, served with mashed potato and kale. The pie filling was delicious and moist without being swamped in gravy. Although a pity that it wasn’t a ‘full’ pie with pastry sides and base, it was as big as my head so I really shouldn’t complain. The slow-roasted pork belly with fennel looked more town than country but was wonderfully crisp and tender. The accompanying cubed celeriac, caramelised apple and kale was a winning combination.
A slice of the exceedingly rich chocolate truffle with salted caramel nearly defeated us. But the champion dessert was a slab of classic sticky toffee pudding, served with vanilla ice cream. This bowl of steamed pudding perfection was a well executed classic: big on flavour yet with a light, open sponge.
To keep you lubricated there are three guest ale pumps, an extensive wine list and a short selection of house cocktails (the classic gin-based Aviation and French 75 are highly recommended).
Breakfast at the White Horse didn’t disappoint. Although there is a choice of cereals, porridge or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, we couldn’t resist the full English. Soft-yolked fried eggs, crispy bacon and sausages are served with more of that delicious crusty white bread. Breakfast came with freshly squeezed orange juice and some great coffee served in kitsch Royal commemorative china. We left full and well-rested, ready to explore the Cotswolds.
Bed and breakfast from around £71 to £125 per night. Dinner around £35 – 40 per person for three courses and wine, excluding service.
The White Horse Inn, Duns Tew, Oxfordshire, OX25 6JS / dunstewwhitehorse.co.uk