Anyone who has eaten at The White Horse in Kings Sutton over the past eight years will know why chef Hendrik Dutson-Steinfeld has so many loyal customers.
But having always dreamt of running his own place, Hendrik and his wife Julie have taken over at The Duck On The Pond in Oxfordshire’s South Newington, opening this Sunday.
A passionate chef and firm advocate of sustainability, with a field to plate ethos, Hendrik is raring to go at his new pub. Growing as much produce as possible and using local suppliers, his menus reflect his vision.
From Sunday roasts to an la carte and taster menu, all the bases are covered and the pair want locals and visitors alike to feel comfortable whether they pop in for a drink, a roast, a pint of the local beers on offer or a special occasion dinner.
“It was a difficult decision to leave but the time felt right, we were ready for a new challenge”
“I’m nervous but excited. We’ve been getting lots of good luck messages through so there is that expectation. When we started at The White Horse we just paved our own way,” he smiles ruefully, “but because it was brewery owned there were restrictions and we’ve always wanted to run our own place.
“So while it was a difficult decision to leave The White Horse because it holds so many memories – it’s where we got married and started our family – but the time felt right, we were ready for a new challenge.”
We chat in the refurbed dining room, the paint fresh on the wall, menus being prepared, bar being sorted. It’s a cool, calm, refined space, just waiting for its new customers to fill it with chatter, but more than anything, it’s where Hendrik can get back to doing what he does best – serving his delicious food.
He makes fresh bread, butter and cheese very morning, uses vegetables for powders, pickling and conserving when there is a glut, and is constantly thinking of new ways to evolve his food and menus, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
With their own organic growing patch, and some reliable growing partners, Hendrik is all about seasonality: “We try to grow as much as possible, but of course there are limitations – people still want chocolate on the dessert menu and lemons with their fish and chips,” he smiles.
“Not only have more freedom but we can push themselves more, we have got so many ideas,” Julie says. “We want to give people what they want while sticking to our ethos. It’s all about their experience.”
The pair met at university and soon realised that hospitality was their forte, Hendrik cooking in professional kitchens from the age 16, learning on the job.
They then approached the breweries who allocated them The White Horse. and over the years put it firmly on the culinary map. “We had so much positive feedback and gave our customers something a bit different, it just took off, really.” Julie remembers.
Now hoping to do the same at The Duck On The Pond, the pub opens for lunch this Sunday (August 21) and then Wednesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner.
So how are they feeling? “Excited,” Hendrik grins. “I just want to get started.”
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