Pub/Bar of the Month November 2010: White Horse, Parson's Green
White Horse, Parson’s Green, London
If there’s one pub in London internationally famous for its beer provision it’s The White Horse at Parson’s Green.
Perched on the edge of a triangular area of green space, alongside Fulham’s King’s Road, the former coaching inn dates from Victorian times.
It’s a big, airy place, converted to one, U-shaped drinking area downstairs, with a small restaurant at one end.
A combination of tables – long and communal or short and private – sit beneath tall windows, surrounded by seating that ranges from soft chesterfield sofas to firm old church pews.
Mirrors and old enamel brewery signs line the walls; a scattering of pot plants adds some greenery. A small terrace at the front is a hive of activity in the summer, when barbecues are prepared outside.
Upstairs at The White Horse is the name given to the recently-refurbished function room that is now open to the public in the evening, unless other events are being staged.
There’s a bar up here, with a typically interesting selection of beers on offer, but for a true picture of what this pub is all about you need to peruse the magnificent counter downstairs, which is divided into sections devoted to various styles of beer.
The handpumped selections show an impeccable commitment to cask beer, with regular offerings such as Harveys Best and Adnams Broadside joined by another half-dozen guest beers.
The keg taps are then split into blocks. Lagers include Veltins and Budvar, and there up to four wheat beers, with typical selections being Lefebvre’s Blanche de Bruxelles and Schneider Weisse from Germany.
There are usually two fruit beers on tap, too, as well as kegged guest ales. Don’t be surprised to come across Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or the Belgian sour ale Duchesse de Bourgogne. If you then crane your neck over the counter, and peer into the coolers, you can study the vast array of renowned bottled beers from all over the world.
The pub’s reputation for outstanding beer dates back almost three decades and began when economist Mark Dorber began working in the cellar as a hobby, instilling his passion for cellarmanship into the ethos of the pub.
Dorber’s Draught Bass became the talk of London as he coaxed a silk purse out of what was rapidly becoming more of a sow’s ear of a beer thanks to lack of investment in the brand.
To Bass’s credit, however, the company allowed Mark a loose rein with the pub. By the time he took over as manager, it was stocking a range of guest beers so large that many customers took a lot of convincing that this was, really, a Bass house.
Dorber has now headed for the east coast where he and his wife, Sophie, run The Anchor at Walberswick for Adnams. Bass does not exist any longer, which means that The White Horse is now owned by the Mitchells & Butlers pub group, which has very sensibly ensured that things have changed as little as possible.
Manager Dan Fox heads up a team of 60 or more servers and cellar workers, all chosen for their commitment to, and understanding of, quality beer. What they lack in knowledge when they arrive is soon addressed through an induction in cellarmanship and service.
That extends to the food provision, too, where the quality is excellent and there’s a healthy sprinkling of originality in the menus.
The White Horse is also one of the few pubs to seriously take on board the concept of beer and food pairing. On the menus, each dish is accompanied by a suggestion for a beer to match.
As if all this wasn’t already enough, The White Horse also majors on special events. Every July there’s an American beer festival, in August a Belgian beer festival and in November an old ale festival. Other recent initiatives have included a celebration of beers from the Grand Ridge brewery in Australia, with beers shipped in solely for the occasion.
Such dedication to quality inevitably has a knock-on effect on pricing, as does the fact that this is a rather affluent part of the country in which to live.
The pub’s unseemly nickname of the ‘Sloaney Pony’ more than hints at the lifestyles of some of the clientele, but, like every good pub, The White Horse, in truth, has a wide mix of customers, with the common denominator being an interest in excellent provision, even if it costs a little more.
If I’m ever asked by future UK visitors for a good place to drink beer in London, The White Horse is always the first name I suggest. More often than not, however, I’m wasting my breath.
It’s already on their list, so widely have the name and reputation of this peerless pub travelled around the world.
1–3 Parson’s Green, London SW6 4UL
Tel. (020) 7736 2115
Opening Hours: 9.30am–11.30pm (12 midnight Thursday–Saturday)