It’s a brave time to open a new pub, but the once-infamous White Horse on Woolwich Road has been reopened with a new look and a new menu. PAUL BREEN popped in for a pint.
Having taught briefly at the old Holborn College (now Windrush Primary School) over the road, I knew the reputation of The White Horse. Passing it a few weeks ago, I realised that something about it seemed very different from the past associations of the place. However, I didn’t enter because like with most people, the act of going out is now a rarity.
But after seeing the lounge empty one early evening, with sensible precautions in place for social distancing, I went in and ordered a pint, where I experienced something new, positive and unexpected.
Under the radar, Charlton seems to have acquired a decent new pub to go along with the others that we already have. The angry past has moved out and there’s a new rider on the saddle of The White Horse. Though I never ventured into the previous shaven-headed incarnation, everything’s most definitely changed beyond recognition, from décor to drinks. I could feel echoes of The White Swan’s early days in a lot of what I saw, from the friendliness of staff to the general ambience of the place.
Speaking to the owner, I get a sense that he’s got a vision for the place and for being a part of the Charlton community. That seems timely when the football club has just acquired a new owner too; Thomas Sandgaard. There’s something about new ownership that fills people’s hearts and minds with a sense of hope, a sense of better times on the road ahead. That’s as true of a local pub as it is of a football club. Something in the human spirit feeds so strongly off fragments of an imagined future. Here, the promise of Sunday roasts (including a veggie option) brought back those lost moments of in-law lunches as a group at the same table.
Possibly even better than that (sorry in-laws) was the promise of forthcoming craft lagers and theme nights that used to be such a feature of The White Swan from dodgy DJs to quizzes and folk sessions. I wanted to scream out “my God, there is a future!” but present regulations dictate that shouting ecstatically is very definitely not allowed in public. I do though want to shout about this place because in my head I’m already there on that sunny May day when Thomas Sandgaard shocks us all by reaching this stage of his title-winning pub crawl around Charlton.
Though I only got a snapshot of one brief evening here, this discovery gives me a sense of hope, a light in the darkness of this lingering winter. Going to our other locals, of course, does the same I should add but there’s something beautiful, something restorative in finding newness right now. There’s a kindling of hope that the good old days can come back to us, that they’re not just moments lost in time in these days of living in fear.
The White Horse is somewhere I’m hoping to visit on one of those rainy Saturdays, in a time when we’ll joke darkly of days when we could cough suddenly and clear the bar to get a round.
There is hope out there and there is healing in the sight of old places staying open and new ones springing to life, even in this darkest of winters. We do need to support them though so that they’ll be there for us on rainy evenings, match days, film festival nights and the like. Nobody knows what the future holds or even how this virus is going to play out, but we’ve got to keep believing and to keep looking ahead. Thanks to the White Horse and Hachi Sushi Grill for their tastes of the past and the future. Thinking about it almost brings tears to my eyes, though it could just be the wasabi from last night in the Japanese café!
Read Paul’s review of Hachi Sushi Grill.
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