Photo by Robey Martin
Owner James Talley stands inside his latest venture, White Horse Tavern
[Update: After multiple delays, White Horse Tavern opens tonight, Thursday, Sept. 24]
“We will be ready to open in two weeks. ABC keeps calling me, and usually it's the other way around,” James Talley says. He's standing in front of a long, shiny, wooden bar on one side of his new restaurant, the White Horse Tavern, on Semmes Avenue near Forest Hill Park. The place looks amazing. A huge silver garage door is getting some finishing touches and the bar adjacent to it needs some sanding and polyurethane, but newly-painted blue and silver walls frame the adjacent room where Talley can already picture the long booths that will seat up to 70 people.
The co-owner of The Cask Café seems overjoyed with his new venture. He's ebullient when speaking of his new chef, Stephen Henderson, most recently of Secco Wine Bar. Mike Braune — currently at The Roosevelt but formerly of Secco — recommended Henderson, believing his style would suit the new spot's British-pub concept. He was right.
“He is really a food geek,” Talley says of Henderson. “He wants to tell you the history of the dish that you didn’t know about.” The menu will feature fresh fish and chips, as well as savory British pies. The tavern will also bring back the familiar Commercial Taphouse burger, onion rings and wings, harkening back to the menu the Fan restaurant served when Talley was an owner.
He kept the South Side site's original ceiling tiles after removing a drop ceiling from the building, which Talley estimates was built prior to the 1930s. Framed British coasters will decorate the walls, along with pictures from Talley's visits to England.
There will be 12 taps focusing on British-style beer, and a dual cask engine: gas beer through a hand pump, essentially. Cask beer is typically unfiltered ale that is racked into casks for a final level of very slight carbonation, and is very delicate; once tapped, it should be consumed within 48 hours. Starr Hill Brewery, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Victory Brewing Co. already have committed to making beer to fit the cask-style pouring you'll find at White Horse shortly.
White Horse Tavern is set to open at 3410 Semmes Ave. by the end of August.