It’s been an 18th month epic journey, but today The White House in Bladon finally opened its doors as a community pub thanks to a long and prolonged battle to save the pub where Winston Churchill learned to drink.
Share-holders from all over the world and lots of locals raised the necessary £500,000 required to buy the historic pub from Greene King brewery and open it as a community pub and hub for the Oxfordshire village.
Quite an achievement when you consider there are only 400 households in Bladon.
And with lots of help from local experts, from interior designers to painters and Nicholsons’ landscape gardeners, a team of eager volunteers have transformed , the pub and its gardens into a light, airy, welcoming, stylish hub for the village to enjoy.
“The community spirit in bladon is phenomenal. We hope people will now come in and see what we have done because the White House deserves to be a big success”
The garden itself is a revelation, the removal of two trees creating a huge expanse to be enjoyed in the summer when The White House hopes to be inundated with tourists.
Today’s soft opening, in light of the current pandemic restrictions, was still an enormous achievement and a demonstration of the village coming together as a whole.
Mike Edwards, who is on the committee, and been involved with the project from the start, is delighted what has been achieved from the newly landscaped gardens to the appointment of manager Johnny Roberts and head chef Dave Fowler.
“The project has worked before we even opened the doors because so many people in the community have got to know each other through working alongside each other and uniting for their community. From that respect alone in our eyes it’s already a success,” he says.
“We were oversubscribed with volunteers wanting to help, which was humbling, and we split the work into shifts.”
The menu is currently paired down to a ‘classic selection’ with plans for a more elaborate offering expected alongside some epic Sunday roasts, to be revealed in the next few weeks.
Head chef Dave Fowler is extremely excited about heading up the kitchens and is busy sourcing local suppliers. Manager Johnny Roberts has chosen lots of local breweries to supply the beer, introduced an extensive cocktail menu and a great gin selection, and is “raring to go”.
Having already commandeered an allotment plot over the road where they can grow fruit and veg directly for the pub, the pair are also setting up an informal shop selling meat, eggs, milk and bread, named ‘the community fridge’ for those needing essentials.
We were the first in for lunch, the pub already busy with those having a lunchtime drink, a late breakfast or just a cup of coffee.
There is an interesting selection from pizzas and burgers to salads, steaks, bar snacks and kids meals, but we settled on the shared Camembert which arrived embellished with rosemary and some delicious buttery, garlic bread to dip in. (see main pic). To be honest just that with a glass of wine would have sufficed.
Opting for something light for mains, an eye already on the sumptuous sounding winter berry pavlova, we tried the vegan potato and leek pie which surprisingly came with chips, a pea puree and salad, and a plate of the couscous and pepper salad with roasted maple pecans and dairy free garlic oil.
The pavlova was everything we hoped it would be; sweet, creamy, crunchy, the meringue contrasting with the sharp fruit.
Accompanied by a glass of wine it was £25 a head, and on paying the bill it was satisfying to know the money would be going back into the pot to make sure The White House is a roaring success.
Still a risk opening during a pandemic though? Mike Edwards says: “To a certain extent yes, but we have had so much support already and by providing a new, central hub for the community we are confident in what we are offering.
“The community spirit here is phenomenal. We just hope people will now come in and see what we have done because it deserves to be a big success.”
If the first signs are anything to go by it will be. And I’m sure it’s most famous patron Winston Churchill would be delighted.
The White House in Bladon is open seven days a week with food served from 10am-8pm. https://bladoncommunitypub.org