Brows were furrowed and hands were wrung when the White Horse’s new owners closed the place for major refurbishment in the summer. Would the team behind the Montpelier on nearby Choumert Road sanitise this honest cockney boozer and unveil a trendified pub for a trendified area? Would pork scratchings make way for artisan nuts? Would there be poetry nights?
The good news for the old regulars is that there’s not a bare brick or a filament bulb in sight. The pool table and dartboard have survived the transition, there’s just one craft offering on keg (Sambrook’s fairly conservative London Pale Ale), and weekend entertainment comes from DJs, not frustrated art students.
The bad news for everyone else is that, well, it’s just a bit boring. There’s no space for local brewers behind the bar, the food menu boasts the odd flash of innovation but centres around comfort-food standards (fish and chips, chicken casserole) and the colour scheme is browner than your grandad’s socks. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any central heating, and just two small–ish open fires are expected to keep the whole place warm. As a result, even during an unusually mild November, we weren’t the only ones keeping our coats on.
Still, it says a lot about the state of London’s drinking scene that a pub so free of novelties can be regarded as a novelty, and for some the eschewing of trends will be a breath of fresh air. And regardless of how bushy your beard is, nobody can deny that the big patio out front will be a great place to sink some fizzy lager come summer.
As the smartening-up of SE15 continues apace, the White Horse has made it clear it wants no part in proceedings. Peckhamites will vote with their feet as to whether that’s a good or bad thing.