Voices News 11/09
WASHINGTON - The White Horse Country Pub and Restaurant on Route 202 in Marbledale offers visitors more than just a dining experience, although a glance at the menu will make your mouth water.
Modeled after an English country pub with distinctly American touches, the rustic rooms feature museum-quality artifacts sure to fascinate diners and stimulate conversation.
White Horse owner John Harris has spent much of his life as a restaurateur, having owned eateries in London, Manhattan and Westport. His hotel management background has taken him to Bermuda, the Middle East and Africa.
But it was serendipity that brought him to Marbledale.
He stopped for a hamburger with a friend one day during the pub's previous incarnation as The Marbledale Pub. His attention was caught by the wonderful view of the Aspetuck River behind the restaurant, and an idea was born.
Several months later, a real estate agent called to say the property was available. Mr. Harris bought it in September 2008 and planned to open in June 2009... "a project for the winter," he observed.
He completely renovated the building to showcase the view and the ambiance he wanted to create: "a cozy, village pub-type atmosphere; the village living room."
"I wanted a place people can come where they can afford to have dinner a few times a week," he explained. "It's been very gratifying. That's exactly what has happened. You'll see people coming in and saying hello to each other."
Mid-afternoon on a rainy weekday, between the lunch and dinner hour, the pub is busy.
At the mahogany bar to one side of the entrance and foyer, two wide-screen televisions offer diversion and, at the tables scattered there, patrons converse and while away the afternoon.
The other side of the restaurant offers more formal dining, boasting beautiful windows that display the view and elegant seating.
A stroll through the rooms, however, reveals much more than the view. A collection of artifacts, obtained, said Mr. Harris, at auctions in England, are as eclectic as the menu.
In the bar, quietly lit with Edison bulbs, the eye is caught between a bright red 1920 Indian Scout Motorcycle perched behind the bar and a striking 1840 wooden sign over the fireplace depicting a white horse that hails from the original White Horse pub in Mayfair, London -- "well ingrained with Victorian fog," notes Mr. Harris, who found the sign after he'd named the restaurant.
To one side of the sign, a framed sketch of William Shakespeare is displayed next to a document with the original seal signed in 1599 handwritten by William Clopton, Shakespeare's good friend and next door neighbor in Stratford upon Avon.
Also in the bar is a guitar signed by all four of the Rolling Stones, and scattered throughout are such jewels as a 1580 tavern table from a castle, an Elizabethan chest, and a 1488 land deed from Northern France.
But the White Horse pride and joy is a 1597 manuscript with the great seal of Queen Elizabeth I, one of only a handful in existence, used exclusively by the Queen on matters of great importance.
Scholarship rights had to be granted to the British Museum for this piece, along with special permission from the British government to take it out of England. Accompanying the document is a picture of the Queen in full regal costume as shown in the carving.
If the artifacts don't tempt patrons, the food will. Mr. Harris said he was striving for a combination of American and English "good, honest country food."
A lengthy list of starters includes such offerings as Sirloin Chili, Farm Goat Cheese Salad, and Piping Crock of Mussels.
The burgers have a list all their own, from the classic pub burger to the Cheddar Crunch Burger and the Red Knight Fire Burger.
The entries feature meat, fish, pasta and pies. Notable are the Guinness Beef Stew, Bangers & Mash, Superior Fish and Chips and Wild Mushroom Ravioli.
"Ridiculously Good Desserts" include Banoffi Pie, an English dessert favored by the royals; Bourbon Bread Pudding, The Mad Hatters Apple Tarte and The White Horse Tipsy Cake.
Prices for appetizers range from $4.75 to $12.50; entrees from $7.75 to $18.75. There is a children's menu at $6.50.
The White Horse, located at 258 New Milford Turnpike, Marbledale, is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
More information may be found on the website at www.whitehorsecountrypub.com or by calling 860-868-1496.