Rural Oxfordshire is the ideal base for easy access to Oxford, Blenheim Palace and the quaint villages that make up the English Cotswolds. The Dennington Arms Hotel in the lovely village of Dennington, near Banbury, can provide a comfortable short stay in a typical country pub, where one can enjoy a cosy drinking atmosphere among the locals, good food and a spacious double room for a good night's sleep.

More of a pub than a hotel, the Dennington Arms has recently had its public rooms refurbished. The bar has retained its cosiness with open fires and window seats, where guest can look out over the village green opposite.  The adjacent restaurant area has a contemporary feel with tables set for two, four and six guests and large photos of the local attractions, like Blenheim Palace, adorn the walls. The bar is well stocked with local beers, a wide range of spirits and an extensive wine cellar. If you hate the formality of the restaurant then you can join the locals grabbing a meal in the bar or you can eat on the patio area at the front of the pub, weather permitting. The staff are predominantly young and enthusiastic, though I found one older waiter rather pushy, aggressive and rude, such that I avoided his attentions, after my first experience. Nevertheless, most waiters and waitresses were attentive, polite and helpful and deserved my generous tipping.

As for the food, the menu is limited, probably due to the recent reopening after the Covid 'lockdown', yet the quality is certainly evident in the dishes that myself and my partner tasted. On my first night I went for the Chicken Supreme, Chorizo, Pomme Anna, Roasted Shallots and Red Pepper Sauce, and my wife chose the Aged Sirloin Steak with Sauce Diane, Grilled Tomato and  Chunky Fries. The title 'Chicken Supreme' was a little deceiving, as when it arrived on a black plate, it was much more than the menu description. Beautifully presented, the chorizo gave the chicken a real 'kick' while the red pepper sauce coated the meat to perfection, I certainly made the best choice and sent a clean plate make to the kitchen. As for the steak - a steak's a steak after all! My partner ordered a medium rare but it arrived far less pink than expected.   

Staying for two nights gives you a chance to try other menu offerings and on evening two, the tables were turned. My wife enjoyed the Rump of Lamb, Potato Croquette, Spring Vegetables and Goat's Curd, but not before offering the chef some advice on his starter of Cauliflower Soup. Being married to a BBC Masterchef  finalist, she frequently sees ways of improving a dish she is tasting, and ordering some cumin from the kitchen, she greatly enhanced the bland creamy soup the chef had delivered. With the Rump of Lamb, she had no suggestions and just enjoyed a delicious and well presented quality dish, complimented by the delightful addition of the goats curd. Well done, chef!

The limited menu gave me little choice but the Beef Burger with Cheese and Bacon, Fries and Onion Rings - 'plain pub grub' is all I can say!

Dinner, Bed and Breakfast in a Double Room at the Dennington Arms is currently £110 per night, but they often have some special deals that include tickets for Blenheim Palace in the rate. Rooms vary in size and quality and a few rooms are a little tired and could do with a revamp. Nevertheless, the beds are very comfortable, the rooms warm and quiet and there is piping hot water readily available. I stayed for two nights with breakfasts and dinner on the first night, plus palace tickets, for £199 as part of a Travel Zoo offer, and thought that was good value. The breakfast menu was extensive, the fare was cooked fresh with nicely poached eggs and plenty of tea and coffee. Sadly the toast was pre-cooked, so cold and hard - pity about that!


  1. It's the ''Deddington'' Arms Hotel in the village of Deddington. Apologies to the owner, Nigel Oddy, for getting this wrong.


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