I don’t know what you’re looking for in short break away, when time is precious, however I now know what I want and I’ve found it.
After we trundled through a couple of Cotswold style, Oxfordshire pretty villages, passed somewhere unbelievably sweet called Daisy Hill, a 17th century building came into view. The White Horse Inn, absolutely in keeping with the entire delightful village, sits on a bend in the road, easily visible, with a wide open door, positively inviting you in. I honestly reckon how it looks from the front hasn’t changed in decades, possibly centuries. And we didn’t resist, in through that front door we headed.
A word of warning, watch your head here if you’re over 5 feet 6 inches tall, which I’m not but some of the staff are and he with whom I travel is. There were one or two rude words to be sure, particularly on a couple of occasions when the very good beer much enjoyed the night before caused a lack of spatial awareness resulting in near fatal head injuries. And I guess the interior is a little dark in places, with old wood beams and furniture, which is absolutely as it should be in a place of this age.
That said, it is a really fabulous place. It is an inn which was taken over by a good group of guys a year ago. There’s a bar, with good head room, several relaxed eating spaces, a wonderful inglenook fireplace, well-kept beer, an interesting wine list and delicious food.
So to the details, there are 8 stable rooms and whilst they are not large, they are very comfortable, pleasantly appointed with quality tartan cushions and curtains. The bathrooms are bijou and perfectly adequate. Nice touches include fresh milk, ask for it at the bar and good towels. By your cushions and towels shall we judge you! And all is well here.
A few strides across the car park took us to a really lovely terrace, surrounded by well thought out flower-filled planters, gloriously sunny in July and the perfect spot for relaxing after a day exploring Chipping Norton or pounding the shops at Bicester Village, both about 8 miles away. The house Merlot was certainly worth savouring and the beer was appreciated by himself, indeed deemed good enough for a second pint.
A treat is in store for those who book a room in the main building. Climb up an outside staircase where 3 recently completed rooms are situated. They are lovely, spacious, still with low doors (big ouch for some) and decorated in muted colours, with larger bathrooms and views over the village, through cottage-style windows, that have a Miss Marple quality to them. However, the best bit for me and he was the totally unexpected roof terrace, invisible from the downstairs terrace and an absolute suntrap, surrounded by low roofs on 3 sides. All to be seen from it were trees and the sky. Had I been a cat, I would have stretched out and purred, for a very long time. Instead, we soaked up the warm early evening sun, enjoyed a second glass of Merlot and chatted lazily to the staff who popped up with drinks. We were even offered the option of having dinner there, rather like being in one’s own private restaurant.
We ate here three nights on the trot, something never done before. The food is good, really good and gloriously not over-engineered. A superb pea and ham soup, fresh scallops, perfect steak and on Friday, air-light battered fish and chips. I’m not a great foodie, however I tucked in with gusto, enjoying every morsel – it was fresh, tasted great and did not overwhelm. And not a word was mentioned about my preference for two starters and no main course. Josh presided in the kitchen with a quiet, intelligent manner whilst Adam led the front of house team charmingly, ensuring each and every guest or customer felt included, valued and never forgotten. The service is spot on – friendly and unobtrusive, delivered by well-trained young people. It was a joy to behold. The beer tastes better in a happy hostelry I’m told, and it tasted great here!
Just a word about breakfast at The White Horse Inn, the full English will take a grown man easily through to dinner, a grown woman, or this one at least, couldn’t manage a whole one! But no problem here, just ask for a mini version and it appears. There are juices, cereals and light bites however even at the height of summer, I see no reason to leave tradition behind.
And this, I think, is at the heart of it: this is a lovely inn, with an excellent restaurant and great rooms, which is firmly holding on to its traditional roots. Yes, refurbishment has taken place, yes, the owners are new and some changes have occurred, however there is a sense that the true essence of this place has remained the same and will continue to do so.
We’ve been here in winter and summer, and will be visiting again: it’s the perfect home from home.
The White Horse Inn
Oxfordshire OX25 6JS
(Junction 9 or 10 off the M40, plus a few miles)