Food review: The White Horse, Dover

PUBLISHED: 14:30 30 August 2019

The White Horse, Dover (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The White Horse, Dover (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Visit The White Horse in Dover for a slice of ancient and contemporary history, a huge welcome and hearty, homely cooking without any airs and graces

Sitting in the shadow of Dover Castle and beside the ruins of a Norman church, the Grade II-listed White Horse Inn dates back to 1365 and was originally home to the churchwarden at next door neighbour St James'.

It took its first recorded steps as an 'Ale tasting house' in 1574 and records show that the cellar was used as a morgue, with inquests on bodies recovered from the sea said to have been heard in the rear dining rooms.

As if that isn't quirky enough, inside you'll find literally every wall covered in messages from cross-Channel swimmers.

The tradition began in 2002 when two Australian brothers did the swim and were so chuffed they signed a wall. Today there are very few spaces left, but My Blonde Mate and I did spot one square with 'Space reserved for D. Walliams' written in red. Let's hope the actor/author bags it soon.

We perched on stools up at the bar and the very lovely Kerry Dyer soon had large gins in our hands from the frankly astonishingly vast selection. Opting for Kentish varieties, I had the Chapel Down Bacchus and MBM a Greensand Ridge Raspberry Ghost. There are similarly huge lists if rum or vodka is your tipple.

A steady stream of drinkers started coming in, including several solo females en route to exotic places, who clearly felt as immediately at home as we did.

Landlords Stuart Fox and Julian Crowley don't have pub backgrounds but Stu was a nurse in his former life and Dover-born and bred Jules (now the chef) is an ex-P&O European Ferries purser/catering officer, so they have people skills in abundance.

The upper terrace is very popular in summer (photo: Manu Palomeque)The upper terrace is very popular in summer (photo: Manu Palomeque)

And it shows. Under their watch, which began in in September 2012 when they decided to take on 'this fine old girl' (Jules' description), The White Horse has become a proper locals pub; not a fine dining sort of pub, but a genuinely welcoming, friendly and down-to-earth one.

Decor is traditional: mahogany tables and chairs, tartan settles, a busy patterned carpet. There's even a dumb waiter and when you spot the almost vertical stairs up to the kitchen you can see why Jules - 15 stone when they opened - has lost three stone just through all the running up and down. Steep stone steps also lead up to the pretty upper terrace, which is very popular in summmer.

By the time we'd finally peeled ourselves away from the bar, the restaurant area was bursting at the seams with happy diners. It was a greyish Monday. Says it all.

There are no starters and you can soon see why - my dressed crab served in its shell with coleslaw, salad and new potatoes was a huge and tasty plateful chosen from the specials board. Blondie even had a burger and chips, a very rare sight indeed.

Customer favourites include a home-made Steak and Guinness pie and classic beer-battered cod and chips. Suppliers are all local. O'Brien's of Dover is their butcher, Katies Greengrocer in River supplies the fruit and veg, Vanes the Bakers in Dover provides the bread and some desserts, fish is from Lazy Lobster in Detling.

A glass of Chapel Down Bacchus apiece later and we were ready for afters - mine a rather sloppy panna cotta with, sadly, frozen fruit, and MBM's a hearty butterscotch and toffee pud with hot custard.

As our taxi sped us to the train station, we felt as happy and relaxed as if we'd spent an evening out with mates. Loved it here.

The essentials

What: Welcoming friendly 'locals' pub in a quirky historic building with roof terrace

Where: The White Horse, St James Street Castle Hill Road, Dover CT16 1QD

When: Mon, Tues, Thurs 12pm-2.30pm and 5.30pm-8.30pm, Wed kitchen closed, Fri and Sat 12pm-2.30pm and 5.30pm-8pm, Sun 12pm-2pm

How much: Beer-battered cod and chips £14, chilli con carne £10.50, bangers n' mash £9.95

More from Food & Drink

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Kent Life Food & Drink Awards finalists, as nominated by our readers, are all local heroes in our opinion – meet the 2020 winners

Read more
Friday, December 18, 2020

‘Kent, sir, everyone knows Kent. Apples, cherries, hops and women,’ proclaims a character in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers. We have gathered some traditional dishes from around the county that were borne of the fruitful orchards and seas of Kent

Read more
Thursday, December 10, 2020

Andy has a confession: he loves the side dishes almost more than he loves the roast turkey. Here are three of his all-time favourites. Article first published in Dec 2018

Read more
December 2018
Thursday, December 10, 2020

Kent Life spends a festive morning with Christmas Bake Off star Jane Beedle in her Faversham home. Article first published in Dec 2019

Read more
Thursday, November 5, 2020

Get everything you need to keep everyone fed and watered throughout the Christmas period or pick up a gift or two from these great Kent producers

Read more
Wednesday, October 28, 2020

English wine is gaining in popularity and this winter could be just the time to try a few.

Read more
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Here’s something for all ages at our Halloween supper – the cocktail can be adjusted to be alcohol free for the kids | Words: Julie Friend - Photos: Julie Friend

Read more
Friday, October 23, 2020

With its wealth of culture, vibrant shopping areas and enticing eateries, Canterbury and its surroundings have much to tempt locals and visitors at this time of year.

Read more
Thursday, October 22, 2020

We are delighted to announce the finalists for the Kent Life Food & Drink Awards 2020! Congratulations to our wonderful finalists!

Read more
Friday, October 9, 2020

No Sunday is complete without a roast dinner, and in the glorious county of Kent you’ll be spoilt for choice with fantastic places to go. We have picked 12 great places where you can indulge in a roast with all the trimmings

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Latest from the Kent Life