White Horse in Surry Hills reopens after $6 million in renovations


A celebrated chef, a rooftop terrace and… a toilet consultant? Your first look at the sophisticated renovation.

Scott Bolles

“There’s nothing left other than the horse,” says Craig Hemmings, hotel manager at the White Horse, of the Surry Hills landmark’s painstaking, ground-up redevelopment.

The life-size galvanized steel statue of the rearing horse still stands on the 1930s property, the subject of a multi-million dollar renovation that cost it entry into the upper echelons of Sydney's unforgiving dining scene.

They had hoped to open the saloon's doors last spring after luring WA celebrity chef Jed Gerrard across the Nullarbor.

“It cost a few million [dollars] to get it down to code,” Hemmings says.

By the time the White Horse's elegant dining room and luxury bar opens on Wednesday, April 17, the renovation will cost $6 million.

The new dining room.
The new dining room.Gavin Green

Hemming was a colt when he opened The Third Man restaurant on Kellett Street in Potts Point 35 years ago, and he's seen a few rodeos (or rather, the opening of 15 food establishments) since then. But every time there are new and sometimes shocking requirements.

“We had a toilet door consultant,” he says.

The result of the Farago Han Studio design shop is impressive. The White Horse's ambition to be a serious restaurant begins on the ground floor, where the pub's bar has been converted into a restaurant, with neutral tones, eye-catching artwork, French oak tables and a mix of Danish and local chairs.

The first floor has been converted into a luxury bar, with a rooftop terrace and private dining room overlooking the treetops of the adjacent park.

Pardoo Wagyu Beef Sandwich.
Pardoo Wagyu Beef Sandwich.Steven Woodburn

Hemmings has built his career in top Sydney restaurants such as Guillaume at Bennelong, and while he wants White Horse to deliver top-notch food, he is not keen to recoup the extravagant rebuilding costs overnight.

He says he would rather offer customers good value for money.

Chef Jed Gerrard shares this opinion. He points to a dish on the opening menu: Wagyu tri-tip with chestnut mushrooms and a mushroom sabayon. Gerrard used his relationship with Pilbara producer Pardoo Wagyu to bring the product back from Western Australia.

“We'll have it on the menu for $45, but in other restaurants it's maybe twice as expensive,” he says.

WA Marron also appears on the opening menu, served on a risotto base
Arborio rice and creamed corn. An Antarctic cod dish has a squid ink glaze, and Berkshire pork cheek is combined with sugar loaf and nashi pear.

James Audas (left), Michael Chiem and Jed Gerrard reopen the White Horse Hotel.
James Audas (left), Michael Chiem and Jed Gerrard reopen the White Horse Hotel.Steve Woodburn

Hemmings has reassembled much of the team from his time at Black by Ezard, a restaurant at The Star. Chef Gerrard worked there before moving to Perth, where he took up executive chef positions at a number of hotel chains, including The Ritz-Carlton, and remains culinary director at Wills Domain in Margaret River. James Audas (Lo-Fi Wines, Noma) and Michael Chiem (PS40, Sokyo) have taken on advisory roles, while Maureen Er (Tetsuya's, Manly Greenhouse) has come on board as General Manager of White Horse.

The plan was to reimagine the White Horse through a contemporary reinterpretation
Objectively, says Hemmings. “We’re thrilled to bring this old girl back to life.”

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