Although it still flaunts its landmark white facade, in many ways The White Horse is almost unrecognisable today. The longstanding Surry Hills pub has had a complete overhaul, led by general manager Craig Hemmings, who took over the site 14 months ago.

“I saw so much potential,” says Hemmings, whose impressive CV includes Quay, Chin Chin and Bistro Guillaume. He enlisted design firm Farago Han Studio – the same team behind the The Waratah in Darlinghurst – for the new look.

The public bar is no longer on street level. Promoted to the first floor, it now features a handsome, green-tiled bar and leafy outdoor terrace. And replacing the once-rowdy downstairs space is a new dining room, fitted with bold artworks, warm wooden furniture and plush banquette seating.

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The entire project has been a collaborative affair: Hemmings called on the help of some old mates, who all previously worked together at The Star's elevated steakhouse, Black by Ezard. The all-star team includes executive chef and partner Jed Gerrard (formerly of Perth restaurant Wildflower), young gun winemaker and sommelier James Audas (Lo-Fi Wines, Bar Heather), and PS40 owner Michael Chiem. He’s also recruited Maureen Er (ex-Tetsuya’s, Hubert) to lead front of house. “I was so pleased to have the band back together. When the idea arose, it was a no-brainer.”

The menu has undergone an overhaul too; punters expecting a schnitzel won’t find one here.

“It’s definitely not your typical pub food,” says Gerrard. “We want people to still have that same level of comfort and fun that they would at a pub … but know there’s some serious and delicious cooking going on.”

In line with the brief of “affordable luxury”, the most expensive plate here is the $58 Manjimup marron served with sweetcorn, followed by a standout Pardoo Wagyu tri-tip with chestnut mushroom and a mushroom sabayon sauce.

A large chunk of the menu is devoted to vegetables: grilled brassicas are accompanied by Bay of Fires cheddar, beetroot mille-feuille is laced with muntries and native thyme, and baby gem lettuce pops with jewels of pomelo.

The bar has a snappier menu. Here, Pardoo Wagyu appears in the steak sandwich and there’s a fun take on lamb chops, with lamb cutlets crumbed in black olive and served with sheep’s yogurt and lemon. French fries come with green peppercorn sauce, and liver mousse on toasted brioche is topped with persimmon and Davidson’s plum.

On the drinks front, Audas is paying the same attention to price with the venue’s 120-strong wine list. Find 30 bottles under $80 and 15 by-the-glass pours with an average price of $14.

Chiem leads the cocktail program, and, as you’d expect from the PS40 owner, drinks are innovative and playful. Take the refreshing Queen’s Gambit – where Davidson’s plum meets white rum, maraschino and lime. Or try a richer flavour with the stirred-down Shiro Old Fashioned, which is jazzed up with Enokido white-miso caramel, whisky and crème de banane.

The White Horse
381 Crown Street, Surry Hills

Wed to Sun 5pm–late