The White Horse, New Preston
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The White Horse ★★ (Very Good)
Can a man fall in love with an Indian Scout, a 16th-century queen and a down-at-the-heels tavern near Lake Waramaug? John Harris could and did.
A builder, developer and restaurateur with English roots, Mr. Harris, like the proverbial knight in shining armor, rescued the old Marbledale Pub from incipient dilapidation and totally transformed it into what it is now, a warm, welcoming American pub with an intriguing English accent.
A gleaming Indian Scout motorcycle circa 1920 holds pride of place behind the bar. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I adorns a wall along with a 1597 manuscript bearing the queen’s Great Seal. The taproom has a fireplace and the dining room has a river view. Solid oak tables, barn-wood doors and fine Elizabethan antiques belie the fact that there is a state-of-the-art kitchen behind it all. The mood is hale and hearty and so is the food.
The soup of the day is split pea and it’s wonderful. The menu is such a fascinating read, we find ourselves reading it aloud. What stand out are the modest prices. “Friday and Saturday will always include: prime rib au jus with Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes and vegetables: $19.50.” Is that a deal or what? We’ve barely begun our meal and already we’re so comfortable we’re planning to come back for Yorkshire pudding.
Our waitress is competent, genuinely helpful and clearly eager for us to enjoy The White Horse as much as she does. When we wonder how the kitchen gets its flatbread so crisp, she consults the chef and returns with complicated instructions involving a convection oven. Rosalie, the best cook among us, has one. Mission accomplished.
The English theme plays out mostly in terms of entrées—shepherd’s pie, fish-and-chips, bangers and mash and the like. When it comes to appetizers, what would the Virgin Queen think of White Horse nachos—a pile of house-made tortilla chips smothered with melted Jack and cheddar cheeses, jalapeños and chili with sides of sour cream and salsa? We think it’s the usual mash-up of Latino snack food—enough for all of us for $8.
Personally, I like the creamy, subtly spiced spinach-and-avocado dip better. Coconut shrimp are well-made but terribly sweet. As for crab cakes, they are thick, pasty and disappointingly lackluster.