Saturday, October 20th 2018 – The White Horse, Kings Sutton
With the increasing shortage of quality restaurants in our area, every so often we strike it lucky, and find a gem. Now that the Roade House, the Vine House and Cameron’s Kitchen are all gone, we need a high-ish end establishment for the more special meals out, and we won’t always want to go to Northampton (Hibiscus or Nuovo) to find them.
Once again, the local food awards came up trumps, with a mention of the White Horse at Kings Sutton. It being over Banbury way, it hadn’t really crossed our radar screens, because I’ve tended to think it’s too far for casual, and nothing really stunning had been flagged up to make it “worth the detour” as the Michelin Guide used to have it. And actually, once I fed the coordinates into the SatNav it turned out to be just under 20 minute’s drive away (plus a circuit of the village to actually locate the venue, but that’s another story).
We had a drink in the bar first, because we were too early, and settled in to our table in the dining room just after the booked time. It didn’t take long to decide we would tackle the tasting menu, which was full of good things – and was priced at £55 (or £35 for the vegetarian version), along with matched wines for an extra £25. Some very good bread was provided, along with a very smooth butter, sea-salted and very tempting. We had to stop ourselves demolishing the whole lot in one go.
Along with an unadvertised, but very welcome, glass of prosecco, (a Ca’ Del Console Prosecco Extra Dry) came an amuse bouches of pulled pork, formed into a croquette and deep fried, with a small puddle of apple on top. They were delicious, and moreish and we were off to a good start. We then started onto the actual menu, with a dense and delicious cauliflower soup with toasted almonds dotted throughout. And when I say dense, you could have pretty much stood a spoon up in it! It came with a very pleasant, smooth and aromatic Rioja Blanco from Spain. And here’s the only quibble I have with the service; that’s the only information we got on the wine from the waitress. The waiting staff are lovely, but they’re very tentative, and not very forthcoming with information. I had to look it up later… A Promesa Rioja Blanco from Spain.
The next course was interesting, with a poached pear accompanied by a very sticky serving of Oxford Blue cheese, dotted about with raisins and walnuts, and hiding underneath an endive leaf, as if it didn’t want to be found! It came with a crisp, citrussy fresh Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet from France (again no further information without having to download the wine list!).
After two very interesting courses we next launched into the main meat of the menu, literally. First up was a dish simply billed as “Duck with Carrots”. It was a perfectly cooked piece of duck breast, the skin properly crisped and browned, served with a smooth and sweet pumpkin puree, some toasted pumpkin seeds, a roasted carrot, and a very clever “cheesecake” sauce. It was something of a showstopper in flavour terms, especially given its utter simplicity, and suggests a kitchen confident in the quality of the ingredients at its disposal, and willing to let those ingredients speak for themselves. It was served with a gentle, plummy red, from Australia, The Swooper Pinot Noir.
The next meat dish was somewhat fancier in execution, but no less tasty. A piece of beef, fillet in fact, from Newbottle Farm, supplied by Brackley Butchers, a business I really need to visit some time soon! This was again beautifully cooked, and was served on top of a barley risotto, with beer and onions, a puddle of a sweet beer and onion sauce sitting inside an onion shell atop the whole. It was warmly autumnal, and lovely, and the quality of the meat again spoke for itself. The wine was a dark, fruity 1895 Norton Malbec, a good middle of the road choice for such a dish.
The service, while reticent, had progressed at a pace we really liked, not too fast, time between courses to relax and talk, but even so we were now at the dessert stage, and again it was very simple and very good. An Espresso Martini arrived first, and was nicely done, with just the right amount of bitter coffee flavour running through it to counteract the sweetness of the kahlua.
It was the drink matched to the chocolate and salted caramel dessert, a gloriously molten-centred chocolate fondant, with a salted caramel ice cream, with some chocolate crumbs. Nothing more; nothing complicated, just a perfectly executed plate of sweet things.
We finished with cheese, with figs and some utterly wonderful crumbly home made oat biscuits, which I could have eaten forever! I think the cheese may have been more of the Oxford Blue, and a Cheddar but we weren’t told, so I am guessing. It was very good anyway, and well kept. It came with a glass of port and it put the finishing touches to an excellent dinner.
Back in the car the SatNav took us home by a completely different route, which still only took 18 minutes. We’ll be going again to the White Horse, I can guarantee it.