The White Horse pub in Exchange Square, that offshoot of the Broadgate Centre located above the tracks at the north end of Liverpool Street station, has been described by some as a gastropub. That might be stretching the definition a bit far, but it does provide decently upmarket pub food in a nice bright and cheerful space, with an outdoor area which comes into its own in good weather. It is open throughout the day and evening providing breakfast for those on their way in to the surrounding offices from 7.30 am, through lunch and dinner with food service until10 pm. People mostly tend to eat out either for a special gastronomic treat, or just a pleasant undemanding meal and the White Horse definitely falls into the latter category.
For Barbican residents looking to eat out in the heart of the city vibe, the pub is around a ten minute walk away.
The day we went there, on a Tuesday lunchtime, was pleasant weather-wise so many of the outdoor tables were already occupied. Indeed the whole restaurant area was busy so presumably it is a popular lunchtime venue for people from the surrounding offices. This in itself is a good recommendation given the huge choice there is for places to eat and drink in, Exchange Square, the main Broadgate Complex and close by in Appold Street, Curtain Road and Worship Street.
We decided to eat inside anyway and were shown to a small table next to a window looking out over Exchange Square. Tables are decently spaced and the interior is bright and airy, with wood flooring and light hued wooden furniture, although the tables for two people are quite small. Wooden chairs have padded seats and backs so are comfortable to sit in. We settled down to a glass of wine each and some sparkling water. The wine list is decent with plenty of by-the-glass options. Bottles range in price from just over £20 – up to over £70 for the most expensive rose champagne on the list. Not cheap but overheads must be pretty high given the location.
Now to the meal itself. There’s not much which could really be classified as starters, although there are smaller dishes on the bar snacks menu and for a group one of the several sharing platters would probably do quite well. We just settled for bread and olives – nice bread and the multi-hued olives looked plump and good, but I’m not that partial to them so I just stuck with a piece of bread dipped in supplied olive oil with balsamic vinegar. My colleague did try the olives and thought they were pretty good.
There’s a reasonable choice of main dishes from popular pub favourites to some more upmarket options. I went for a sirloin steak, medium rare which was served with some excellent chunky fries and watercress at £19.95 – about the most expensive dish on the menu. Not the greatest steak I’ve ever had, but adequate.
My colleague went for the Hot House smoked salmon salad (£12.95) which looked, and tasted so I was told, very good indeed. This was not quite as expected as the smoked salmon was not in the thin slices one usually gets in restaurants, but as chunks from a whole smoked fish and was all the better for that.
Mains come in between £10.50 and £19.95. There is also a selection of hamburger options – including a vegetarian one. The hamburgers do look really good – we saw a few delivered to other diners. They are priced from £11.95 to £16.50 and come with fries.
There were only two dishes on the dessert menu – Eton mess and a choice of sorbets (3 scoops) – we shared the sorbet which was good and a generous three scoops.
Overall our meal with a couple of glasses of wine and a bottle of sparkling water came to around £28 a head. Not exactly gourmet food, but well presented. Table service was good and efficient. A pleasant and comfortable place for a non-demanding lunch and good for people-watching, particularly from the outside tables or from one of those in the windows. Exchange Square tends to be lively and quite often has special events going on.
Early evenings, we are given to understand, are busy with an after-work drinks crowd, but an area of tables at the far end are kept for those who may want to sit down and enjoy what’s on the all day menu. It strikes me as being a pretty good place for breakfast, but having not sampled their breakfast offerings can’t comment on quality, but on the basis of the lunchtime service should be pretty good. For pricing guidance, the full City Breakfast – the full English – comes in at £9.95. Other options include scrambled egg on toast (with or without bacon), Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, bacon or sausage sandwich, English breakfast muffin etc.
The White Horse is at 2 Exchange Square, Appold Street| EC2M 2QA | TEL. 020 7377 9958 | EMAIL. firstname.lastname@example.org. It could be worth booking a table in advance as it can be busy, although probably not necessary most days. As with many other city establishments reliant primarily on custom from surrounding offices, The White Horse is not open Saturdays or Sundays.