You don’t only get greeted by a bouncer on the way in, in this Rainham pub there’s one to show you out too.
The ‘in’ doorwoman at the White Horse was polite, helpful and firm, in that order and we were told exactly what spot to stand on to order our drinks and, where to go to collect them, but only after a thorough auto sanitizing. Personally I sanitized on the way out too.
‘Vertical drinking’ is currently banned, as made clear on the laminated instructions placed on each table. In fact, looking around at the state of some folk by 9pm on a Friday night it would have been physically impossible anyway.
One particularly ‘tired and emotional’ punter was so battered she couldn’t even get the right end of the fag in her mouth. Fortunately scorched lips and further fire risks were averted by a sympathetic trainee barmaid who first rearranged it before lighting it for her
The pub in general was pretty busy, but by far the three most active areas were the fruit machines, the smoking area and the love-nest occupied by one couple, just in front of the pool table.
I should point out there was no action on the pool table and it was covered up all evening, the action from the unlikely couple sitting in front of it more than made up for this.
The age gap might have been extensive but she was still game enough to hitch up her shiny black trousers to climb astride her beau. Other energetic antics are unreportable and must be left to your imagination.
Having secured our drinks we selected a table in the cavernous room at the back with a raised stage at the far end and a booth which probably housed a DJ in a past life.
Mrs SD and the apprentice were in tow to share the experience so the first round was a large glass of white wine, a Stella and a Timothy Taylor Landlord bitter. Say what you like about Craft Union pubs, but all three were great value at just a tad over a tenner.
The darts board, out of use like the pool table, looked forlorn and unloved, but a mass of screens around the place showed World Matchplay or horse racing from Beverley – with not a single soul taking the slightest notice of either.
The only live sports creating any interest were a game where all six folk sat at one table took it in turns to try on each other’s protective masks and another display where one of the many blokes wearing a cap backwards gave an incredibly extended and physical explanation of the difference between an orthodox and southpaw boxer.
The place was staffed entirely by fair-minded women who showed not the slightest favour to any specific customer, choosing instead to hand out abuse, in equal measure, to all – though I must stress this was all good-natured.
There’s a very strict one-way system in operation and if you require a fag or toilet relief you must complete the full circuit.
I simply popped out for a breath of fresh air, but still needed to traipse back along the pavement to the front door. The bloke accompanying me complained at the length of walk required to take a leak and said the pub used to boast an outside lavvy in the corner of the car park, though he did admit it was probably knocked down 30 years ago.
Back at the front door the ‘in’ bouncer insisted I never walk this way again with a pint in my hand.
I should probably report at this stage that the toilets, whilst not entirely spick and span, were reasonably clean and didn’t smell too bad.
On the way out we met new boss, Nicola (previously deputy manager at The Bell, Bredhurst) who openly admits the White Horse had problems when she took over in February and there’s still work to be done turning it around.
But she reckons a good few bad apples have already been cleared out with a few more set to follow.
Its poor name has currently earned the Horse a nightly 11pm curfew, but Nic hopes to get a later licence back if she can instil better behaviour.
From what I saw she’s still got some challenges but she’s doing a good job and I wouldn’t bet against her putting this pub back on track.
White Horse, 95High Street, Rainham ME8 8AA
Decor: The big room feels a bit village hall-like but the other areas are reasonably well kept and they’ve adapted quite well to the ‘new normal’ **
Drink: The beer was good for the price and Stella is Stella but Mrs SD said the Brancot Estate was a really decent drop of wine, served perfectly chilled. ***
Price: Stella is £3.55 a pint, the TT Landlord more than a quid less at £2.50 and a large white wine £4.60 – you can’t argue about the prices, this is great value. *****
Atmosphere: Apart from the loved-up miss match, it was all groups of just men or just women, all just drunk. But there was an upbeat feel to the place. ****
Staff: Positioned behind Perspex screens, apart from when they were collecting glasses, the all-female staff were efficient and friendly with plenty of ready banter. ***