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coach & horses, soho
Photograph: Ben Rowe

Legendary London boozer marks the end of an era with a proper knees-up

Laura Richards

The word ‘iconic’ gets bandied about a lot these days, but in the case of Soho pub The Coach & Horses, it’s probably acceptable to call it one of London’s most iconic pubs. From its heyday, when Norman ‘You’re Barred’ Ballon – known as London’s rudest landlord – ruled the roost to its more recent years under landlord Alastair Choat – who introduced an unlikely vegan menu and a secret tearoom – it’s fair to say that there’s rarely been a dull moment.

And from present-day pickled eggs to singalongs around the piano, the Coach has somehow managed to cling on to some of the London traditions that other parts of Soho have lost – traditions that once lured in the likes of Peter Cook and Jeffrey Bernard (who used to chronicle his sessions here for The Spectator). 

While the pub isn’t going anywhere (thank you, pub gods!), landlord of more than ten years Choat has been informed that his tenancy is up by owner Fuller’s. The Chiswick pub group acquired The Coach & Horses back in 2011, and has now decided to bring it into their stable of managed pubs.

Fuller’s has stated its intention is to carry out restoration work to return the pub to ‘its former glory’, a move which Choat and his team called a ‘vanilla managed makeover’ in an online petition that garnered over 11,000 signatures. But despite all the signees, Fuller’s has officially called time on the pub in its current guise, with The Coach & Horses now set to change hands on Sunday June 23. 

To mark the current landlord’s departure, the Coach and Horses is throwing a free farewell street party in Soho on Saturday June 15. The team are promising ‘Soho’s first summer pub garden’ filled with live bands plus a live broadcast from Soho Radio. And we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a singalong or two kick off close to closing time.      

The Coach & Horses closing party takes place on Saturday June 15, noon-11.20pm and is free to attend. Fuller’s will take over the lease from Sunday June 23.

Find more ‘iconic’ watering holes in our list of London’s best pubs.

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