The White Horse: 'The Hard Rock Cafe meets the British Museum'
By Susan Tuz STAFF WRITER_Updated: 08/27/2009 10:34:38 AM EDT Link to online article
Restaurateur John Harris spins tales of rock star friendships and British heirlooms when he greets patrons at The White Horse Country Pub in Marble Dale. On the site where the iconic Marble Dale Pub called home since the 1970s along Route 202, the building is new from its foundation to its cathedral ceiling and stonework fireplace. A deck off the pub room and a patio off the dining room offer an East Aspetuck riverfront experience as patrons drink a pint of ale or dine on British Raj chicken salad. Mr. Harris and his wife, Lisa, have created an atmosphere at the pub that is warm and inviting, with touches that intrigue. From a 1920 Indian motorcycle mounted behind the bar to a circa 1580 tavern table that has been in continuous use over the centuries, according to Mr. Harris, the White Horse offers an eclectic blend of whimsy with the dining experience. "We light the river up at night," Mr. Harris said as he stood on the blue stone patio. "People come in and thank me for what we've done with the spot. It's gratifying."
The Harrises are not new to the restaurant business. They have had establishments in London, New York and Westport. Most recently, Mr. Harris was directing his energies to land development in Fairfield County but, with the downturn in the market, he decided it was time to return to his first love -- being the proprietor of a top-notch eating establishment. "We've kept the price point low on our dishes," he said. "The country is in a recession and everyone's watching their money. Then, there is the fact that this is a pub and prices should be reasonable." Mr. Harris said he hadn't intended to create an authentic pub yet one evolved as the White Horse was coming together. "It just evolved into the sort of pub I wish we'd had in my neighborhood in England when I was growing up," he said. "It's like the Hard Rock Cafe meets the British Museum." Museum quality documents and photos decorate The White Horse's walls and Mr. Harris enjoys telling the story of their origins. As for the guitar behind glass, signed by The Rolling Stones, that hangs on one wall -- "How I came to have that is a secret," he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
The White Horse Country Pub on Route 202 in Marble Dale is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Photography by Norm Cummings