White Horse has had two distinct eras. The first, and apparently best, was when it was located at Fort and dominated by students from the Overseas School in Colombo. The second corresponds to the change in venue - when White Horse moved to Navam Mawatha and the OSC kids put down their glasses and lamented the close of what would later be known as a golden era.
I've only ever been to the new (ie. present) White Horse, often disparaged by an older more nonchalant generation who assert that WH 1.0 was truly one of the best bars - not just in Colombo but of all time. They're probably right. Savan
was lucky enough to have caught the tailend of its tenure, but Indi and I missed it completely - we're sorely disappointed.
But however brilliant OWH may have been, there's still much to say about the present. Like the White Horse before it, so many of us spent so much
of our adolescence drinking and laughing amidst its smoky, indigo walls.
There were raids and there were rumours. I remember a tuition teacher once saying "Don't go there! They spray something into the air that gets you high!" and there was that night where the police stormed in and took away everyone who didn't have legit ID - about 60% of the crowd.
White Horse has always been a playground for Colombo's underage, bright young things. It's also been a playground for Colombo's not-so-bright things. Which probably explains why the occasional fight breaks out: the big bundied, arrack drinking men in the corner toss a few lewd comments at the girls whose male counterparts then indignantly intervene for their honour...you know how the rest goes.
But it's nowhere near as formidable as it may sound, these were all happy days. White Horse was always fun, and everyone you knew was always there. But since the war ended there's been a flowering of new bars and clubs across the city (Dutch Hospital
, Colombo Courtyard
, Rize, etc.) which means the drinking crowd is more dispersed. You don't get that concentration of everyone you know packed into a single venue and spilling out onto the streets.
When you were young I guess White Horse always had that delicious allure of being a place your parents would disapprove of - and that you were technically too young to be at. The sign that read 'No drinks served for anyone below the age of 21' was a joke. But the feeling of rebellion and coolness wears off as you get older. We go now, only to marvel at the new wave of sylph-like girls flitting from table to table, dressed in slinky dresses and sharp heels. We look down at ourselves - batas, shorts and bundis. When did this happen?
We love White, but things seemed to have changed again. The same way the older generation laments the evolution of the OWH, we groan at the apparent decline of White Horse now. The crowd is different, the menu's changed, and it just doesn't feel quite the same. The quirky chicken 'chopsy' has been replaced with a sedate 'chicken fried rice' and the place just isn't as endearingly rough around the edges as it used to be. It's not cheap either - a bottle of Lion is Rs. 300 and an arrack and lime is Rs. 350. The staff are still the same, though, all smiley, friendly and familiar, and it's still a good place to go - even if just for the memories.
If you're feeling peckish, ask for the cheese toast. This isn't on the menu but it's pretty good.