What was once – and on this evidence I suspect still is – dubbed the Sloaney Pony has unashamedly moved with the times and embraced the so-called craft beer revolution. That this development boosts the appeal of a previously unvisitable place is undeniable. Because despite the presence of types who think it’s acceptable to wear sunglasses indoors in December, the White Horse has become something of a destination if you’re after a decent pint in this posh-cravatted neck of the woods.
Some crimes against pubtopia remain – ‘pistols’ and ‘dolls’ substitute gents and ladies for lavatory signs, for example – but other than that and the questionable nature of some clientèle, it’s a highly pleasant environ in which to pass a couple of hours, not least if you luck out and get the fireside armchairs. It’s too polished by half, mind. You get the feeling the considerable wooded aspect here present is frequently on the receiving end of liberal applications of varnish. The outdoor eating and smoking area is meticulously sculpted, with benches mirroring the walled tree planters in a frighteningly anal way. The flowers bill must be astronomical given the sheer volume of them in vases inside and out. And in only one hour, I’ve counted more Barbour jackets than I’ve seen on display in Selfridge’s coat department in the autumn season. Charles Tyrwhitt would be proud too, its range amply adorning the backs of male customers, one or two of whom are still sporting an upturned collar.
But look past the misdemeanours – as we must – and there’s much to admire here too. A brass bar rail provides welcome relief for the propper-uppers among us. The exterior is genuinely lovely to look at. And then there’s the beer. An enviable range of taps and pumps greets the visitor and provides proof this place is about more than being seen (or is that ‘scene’?). On my visit, a genuine choice of seven cask ales of fine providence vies with even more keg offerings and fresh tank pilsener from Czech masters Urquell for my attention. Which is grabbed as I expect is intended. And as you’d expect, it’s all kept exceptionally if the pints I had are anything to go by. I like the odd displays of old Belgian beer badges and posters that populate one corner of the pub; a hat tip to quality that’s both naff and apposite at the same time.
And that, I think, is the crux of this place. It’s delightful and dreadful in equal measure. A pub you’d like to go to but would hate to be caught at in one hilariously paradoxical place. A real curate’s egg of a boozer that you can either enjoy or endure, depending on when you visit and who you are. Sloaney, but weirdly not pony.