I like pubs. Pubs are great because they show exactly where Britain’s contribution to world gastronomy came from. The French may have invented the cafe, the Italians are rightly proud of their Osteria’s and the Germans can hold their heads high with a good Beirgarten, but my heart is down the pub and I feel that hauling these pockets of British social cohesion back into relevance one pint of social beverage at a time is the best way to remind ourselves why it would be a terrible thing if they were to disappear.
Having then set the scene for this review, Duns Tew is about as English a village as you might ever hope to visit. Mrs P and I drove along the high street amusing ourselves with stories of an alternative universe where we could afford to move there. Before long though, we pulled into the White Horse and it was everything I had hoped, the place looked fantastic – and full. Very full.
First impressions of The White Horse, Duns Tew
Classy and classic at the same time, the place was heaving and as Mrs P and I weaved our way through the crowd and past the bar, we couldn’t help but appreciate that The White Horse is clearly pulling in punters from quite a wide area. We were excited to see if they knew something we didn’t.
Service was slow but friendly – considering the number of people in the venue though, this shouldn’t be taken as a criticism, it was a Friday night and we were both happy to sit and chat over our drinks while pondering the menu. I really liked the fact that the menus are printed daily, it says the kitchen is working seasonally and with asparagus along with the white beans as well, that’s a good sign.
Starting at the start
Starters then were prawns and bruschetta which both proved to be very tasty indeed. The bread was well toasted and the broad bean pesto in particular was really nicely seasoned and went well with the soft mozzarella. A quick note on the mozzarella, there was a lot of it which almost washed out the pesto. It made for a big starter, tasty, but big. The prawns came shell-on to Mrs P’s passing disappointment. However, I pointed out that this was entirely her issue and proceeded to enjoy every head sucking second (everyone knows that the head is the best bit).
Finding a few problems
I’m afraid though that the mains didn’t fare quite so well.
Firstly Mrs P’s burger was served on the very cusp of rare to medium rare, which gave Mrs P a slight pause and while it didn’t create too much of a problem for us, it did prove too much for the table next door who sent theirs back to the kitchen. Mrs P pointed out to the waitress that if the burgers are served that way as standard, the diner should be informed beforehand, or preferably asked their preference for how they would like it to be cooked. Also presented to Mrs P was an absolute mountain of fries, they were cooked well and tasted good but we managed barely half between us and during our meal we saw at least four other plates go back into the kitchen still piled up with left over chips. We concluded that while generosity is a positive thing, if that much food is going back, perhaps portion sizes should be considered to save on needless food waste.
On the other side of the table I liked the sound of my rabbit dish, it had all the hall marks of a winner; seasonal veg, good use of game and the Italian touch of turning basic ingredients into something special but despite it’s promise it just couldn’t deliver. The beans were swamped in oil which coated everything on the plate while the rabbit itself was just incredibly bland and when separated from the bread coating tasted of very little indeed. It’s a shame because game is excellent and sourcing British game in particular should be supported far more but when presented like this, it’s difficult to justify rolling out the flags and banging the drum.
A great finish
For desert though, things were back on track with the Tunisian orange cake and the passion fruit curd. Both of these stood up very well, with the cake being a moist fruity number which settled Mrs P down nicely while my sharp and creamy passion fruit curd with the homemade shortbread was hands down the best dish of the evening. It may not have been the best presented plate but it really packed in the flavour.
I was invited to review The White Horse but if we had paid, it would have come in at £75 including service charge, which is pretty pricey. If you take a look around at the affluence of the area though you get an idea as to why they charge the prices that they do. So, as Mrs P and I continue our pursuit to uncover some of the best pubs for your delectation and delight, I’m afraid to report that while The White Horse looks the part, the staff are undeniably full of enthusiasm, the well stocked bar has excellent real ale, interesting spirits and is a must-stop destination for a sunny afternoon, the food has it’s highlights but just doesn’t quite reach the same peak. It’s a tough one to call and by all means visit The White Horse to take a look for yourself so if nothing else, you can while away a few hours with a plate of chips and a pint of beer wishing you lived in Duns Tew too.