Saddle up ladies and gents! This one is for the horse lovers or for those country bumpkins who need a gentle initiation into the city and are looking for an awesome horsey day out in London!
Any number of my friends will testify that, at school, sport was not my forte. The one sport I actually enjoyed was riding and polo. I was lucky enough to learn in Argentina and it was a time of my life in which everything centred around horses – to the point where the only Spanish vocabulary I knew was horse-based – I couldn’t order a sandwich to save my life but I could persuade a gaucho to tack up my pony no problem! It was a magical time and one, which I regularly reminisce about…. so it was such a delight to delve into horsey London!
I wanted to find places and experiences for you that celebrate these beautiful beasts and interiors that really capture the spirit of equine sports – both the rugged and the glamorous – and the fun that goes with it all!
First thing’s first. Brunch.
PJ’s Polo Bar & Grill on the Fulham Road, has to be one of my most recommended brunch spots I give to friends. Located in the heart of Chelsea, it does glam casual fantastically well. The Bloody Mary’s are some of the best in London and will sort any stubborn hangover.
The interior leans more towards the American than British side of things but we won’t hold that against them! The walls are studded with polo memorabilia, there’s glossy wood just about everywhere and become’s flooded with natural light when the sun’s out. It manages to be one of those magical places that is simultaneously relaxed yet sophisticated – a foolproof choice due to its timeless appeal.
If you happen to be doing a horsey day in London during the polo season (May – September) then, after brunch, canter over to Ham Polo Club, the last remaining polo club in London to watch a match or get in on the action and have a polo lesson. If you’re a staunchly British rider and are untrustworthy of the Latin temperament, then take a ride through Hyde Park with Hyde Park Stables located in the very quaint Bathurst Mews.
After all that action, feeling like kitting yourself out? Harrod’s equestrian department has a slick presentation of luxury riding brands to achieve the country look the ‘jet set’ go for. I generally tend to want EVERYTHING from Holland Cooper. La Martina has some serious togs for the polo crowd and all the kit that goes with it. For the serious riders – whether you need to muck out or go all out, there’s the lovely Riders & Squires in Kensington.
Chomping at the Bit for a swift afternoon half? Gallop along to The Running Horse Pub in Mayfair or you can visit their Whip Bar upstairs if you’re in the mood for something stronger. Terribly British in every way, a good pub lunch is definitely on the cards here. The Running Horse is a collaboration between James Chase of the award-winning Chase distillery and Dominic Jacobs, former bar director at Sketch – so you’re in good hands! The pub was restored in 2013 and has the ambience of a cosy country house with its panelled walls in heritage colours and rooms littered with classic bentwood chairs.
For the swankier crowd, Ralph’s Coffee & Bar has recently opened for light bites, coffee and cocktails. The interiors are maximalist international equestrian clubhouse; heavy on the saddle-leather, dark wood paneling and equine art – an experience that is very jet set and stallions abound no doubt…! This is the stuff Jilly Cooper novels are made from.
Whilst you’re that side of town, a few furlongs away is the HouseHold Cavalry Museum, a living museum where you can see troopers working with the regiment’s horses in the original 18th century stables. As well as daytime visiting hours, private evening tours can be arranged. It doesn’t get any more British heritage than this!
A hidden gem, the Stables bar at The Milestone Hotel is packed to the rafters with equestrian sporting memorabilia and hardware! The Stables Bar is like walking in to an eccentric patron’s country estate – texture, pattern and equestrian-themed art everywhere. This bar is a cocoon of warm dark wood paneling, racing green leather seating and brass detailing. They take their cocktails just as seriously as their horsey interior, so you can only imagine…
If you think I’ve missed anywhere off, then let me know in the comment section!
Or, if you’ve been to any of the above – how was it? I’d love to hear your experiences of these maximalist horsey interiors!
Photography by Shireen Dhaliwal & Gregory Davies