14-16 Worple Way, Richmond, TW10 6DF
tel: +44 (0)20 8940 2418
When I first moved to London in 2001, I was living with a very posh, 50-something female flatmate who was keen to show me all things British. She started me off with a few top tips. 1) You mustn't buy your bed linens anywhere expect John Lewis. 2) You must never say, "I'm full" after a meal - one says, "I'm replete". 3) If you want to meet nice men, go to the White Horse in Parsons Green. Famously dubbed the Sloaney Pony because of its posh clientele, a single girlfriend and I gave it a go one Friday night. It was disastrous. The "nice men" were all pretentious tossers, most of them smashed off their faces bragging about their latest sailing trip to Croatia. We lasted one beer before running for cover.
Fast forward ten years. A girlfriend of mine with a new bloke in her life texts me to ask if me and my fella would like to meet them for Sunday lunch. She suggests the White Horse. I gulp. But then I notice she's said, "the White Horse in Richmond." I sigh with relief. Thank heavens for the plethora of pubs in London, many with the same name. So I check out the website. It dubs itself as a "lovely local gastropub" and says it's famous for two things: its great food and fantastic staff. When we arrive on the first Sunday of 2011, the place is packed with reserved signs on every table. The first thing we notice is the high proportion of children. And dogs. Together, they almost outnumber adults. As we try to squeeze through a narrow pathway to our table, no one gets out of the way. "Pardon me," I say politely to a table of well-groomed men and women wearing wool jumpers and wellies. No response. "Excuse me," I say again, this time with a little more edge. "Could I just sneak through?" A man with horn-rimmed glasses snorts something posh and incomprehensible at me and grudgingly moves his chair in 1mm. "Thanks," I say out loud. "For nothing," I mumble under my breath. And then it dawns on me. This White Horse is the adult equivalent of the Sloaney Pony. This is where those same bragging, pretentious tossers come when they have perfect children and golden retrievers. Oh lord, I think. This is going to be a long lunch.
Luckily, the food is fantastic. The White Horse offers a choice of Sunday roasts - beef, pork, lamb, chicken or turkey. Two of us choose the beef (£15.95). While the Yorkshire pudding was a little burnt, the meat was rare, juicy and coated in a gorgeous gravy. It was perfectly matched with a plummy Argentinean Malbec advertised on the "bin ends" chalkboard. We tried to order another bottle, but a charming waitress informed us we had drunk them dry of Malbec. She brought over an impressive wine list, featuring over 55 bottles and we managed to find an apt replacement with the house red.
My husband, still feeling a little delicate from a boozy dinner party the previous evening, ordered the wild boar sausages with mashed potatoes and red wine gravy (£10.95). He had nothing but praise for the sausages and mopped up every last drop of the rich, thyme-filled red wine gravy.
Across the table, our girlfriend's new bloke went for the burger with melted cheddar, mustard mayo and chips (£10.95). He gave it the nod of approval and complimented the chargrilled flavour adding, "for a pub burger, this is pretty damn good." He comments that he'd order it again, but would ask for the bun to be grilled too. "The buns in this country always let the burgers down," he concluded. All in all, I'd give the White Horse a 8.5/10. The service was cheery; the food super tasty; the clientele - a bit wanky. That's not the fault of the pub. Where there's a White Horse, sloanes will follow.