It was absolutely packed at Tap Social’s White House on Sunday, its colourful, welcoming interior packed with families, pushchairs, big groups, pensioners, students, all gathered for head chef Michael Carr‘s famous roasts.
It was a damp, rainy day, because otherwise we’d have been outside enjoying the inviting colourful tables, which I’m sure will be full all summer, situated on Abingdon Road, so close to the city centre.
Everything here is made from scratch and the Sunday roast is one of Michael’s favourite meals to cook, so he goes all out
We’d been for a glorious dinner there too, just after Michael took over as head chef early this year, which hit all the right notes.
Not a surprise really, considering his seriously impressive CV dripping with Michelin starred and award winning restaurants, from The Waterside Inn, Latymer Restaurant in Pennyhill Park Hotel, The Kingham Plough, Oxford Kitchen and The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny.
Michael however wanted a change and fell in love with the Tap Social ethos (rehabilitating prisoners by teaching them hospitality skills) so gone are the fancy highfalutin menus and instead good, honest, sustainable, seasonal, local food reigns, and it’s going down a storm.
Back to lunch. There were lots of starters passing by our table from Shetland mussels with smoked pancetta, parsley and garlic sauce, through to BBQ chicken wings, venison and pork Scotch eggs and a twice baked three cheese soufflé. But our eyes were on the main event. We were too hungry to wait.
Everything here is made from scratch and the Sunday roast is one of Michael’s favourite meals to cook, so he goes all out. There is roast corn fed chicken (£15), roast pork belly (£16.50), 20 day long aged Angus beef sirloin (£17.50), braised lamb shoulder (£16.50), a vegan wellington (£13.50), herb crusted cod (£14.50) and even a whole shared roasted chicken for 3-4 people (£32.50) with all the extras you’d expect.
THE BEEF, RESPLENDENT IN APPEARANCE, WAS SERVED INSIDE A VAST YORKSHIRE PUDDING WITH THE VEG IMMERSED IN THICK RED WINE AND PORT GRAVY
We dived in and ordered quickly, the waitressing staff struggling with the sheer volume of customers, Tap Social probably lacking staff as everywhere else does this days, meaning there’s always a bit longer to wait than usual.
We chatted and caught up, enjoyed the atmosphere, appetites sharpened for when the food arrived and it was worth every second of the wait.
First up the beef, resplendent in appearance, served inside a vast Yorkshire pudding with the cabbage, potatoes and carrots immersed in thick red wine and port gravy. Beautifully cooked, red and juicy inside, it was a massive success, and the case of much envy despite our own favourites.
MICHAEL IS DEFINITELY MAKING HIS MARK AND IT’S GREAT TO SEE SUCH A WELL DESERVING PUB NOT ONLY SERVING THE COMMUNITY BUT FLOURISHING UNDER HIS HELM
The pork (see above pic) was also hugely well received, the apple sauce sweet and piquant, the crackling crackly, the meat succulent and juicy. Not a word did we get out of its recipient until the plate was clean, and he’s a chef himself, so extra bonus points.
The vegan wellington (always a gamble) was filled with butternut squash, chestnut and mushroom. It was dark and dense, beautifully balanced, the pastry light but thick and the accompanying veg so well cared for – the carrots tasted of carrots, a rare treat these days, the potatoes flavoured with lemon and garlic and crisped just so, the cabbage vibrant and strong. And the gravy – we ordered a second pot! As roasts go this was right up there.
We only had room for one pudding between us – the sticky toffee pudding then with vanilla ice cream (£6), the cavalier of Sunday roast desserts which was sweet and dense if lacking a slight depth of toffee flavour.
We left full, happy, replete and patting ourselves on the back at such a superb Sunday lunch offering. Yes Michael is definitely making his mark and it’s great to see such a well deserving pub not only serving the community but flourishing under his helm.
The White House is at 38 Abingdon Road, Oxford. OX14PD