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Londons first Vegetarian Pub!
The Coach and Horses, 29 Greek Street, Soho, London is a public house notable for its association with the columnist Jeffrey Bernard, the staff of Private Eye magazine, other journalists and as a haunt for Soho personalities. Its former Landlord, Norman Balon, became famous too – in part for his self-proclaimed title of "London's rudest landlord", but also, presumably, because of his proximity to writers who document his actions and anecdotes.
The interior of the pub was recreated on stage for the biographical play about Bernard's life Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell. The play was successful and Balon's memoirs followed entitled You're Barred, You Bastards.
There has been a pub on the site since the 1700s. The current building dates from the 1850s. Norman Balon's last day at the Coach and Horses was on Monday 22 May 2006 when he officially handed over to the new owner Alastair Choat, who continues to foster the pub's unique identity as a gathering place for writers and thinkers by hosting events such as the fortnightly Private Eye lunch and an excellent pub piano sing-a-long.
Read about our history
The coach and horses' infamous landlord!
When Norman Balon retired from the Coach and Horses in 2006 after 62 years as London’s self-proclaimed ‘rudest landlord’ it signalled the end of what many considered to be the end of a golden era in Soho history.
His career at the pub, which would turn out to be the only job Norman would ever experience and to which he would completely dedicate his life, was to have an inauspicious start. Norman’s father Jack acquired the lease to the Coach and Horses at 11 am on the 3 February 1943; moments later, following a brief phone call where he told his son, "Leave college immediately and come and work in the pub” Norman took his place for the very first time by 3pm that afternoon, helping out behind the bar and would go on to become landlord the following year.
Peter O’Toole, Francis Bacon, Jeffrey Bernard and the staff at Private Eye are just some of the regulars to have called The Coach their regular drinking den over the years. Painters, authors, actors and Soho louches congregated here having been drawn by the unique atmosphere that he created,
‘I have a great diversity of customers, from the homeless and shoplifters to some of the highest people in the land. They come here and they spend money and they become friends. They’re people I would entertain in my drawing room.
When asked what makes a good pub Norman replied “Me. A pub is a reflection of a landlord’s personality. I believe that by and large you should have people in there that you could talk to at home. I can’t stand bores. I can’t stand people who annoy me.” ’The infamously straight-talking Norman was certainly never one frightened to speak his mind and is rumoured to have once barred his own mother saying, ‘she’s past it’. As Norman couldn’t stand the idea of a jukebox being installed this meant that the focus in the pub became conversation and woe betide you if you were found lackingy. Norman became infamous for giving those who didn’t match his exacting standards a sharp-tongued despatch, ‘Here's your money. F**** off.’ Or if you were lucky, ‘You're barred. You're too boring to be in my pub.’
The pub’s unique mix of characters and legendary watering-hole status provided inspiration for a variety of pub regulars. Among them political cartoonist and Coach local Michael Heath who created the much loved comic strip ‘The Regulars’ which, published in Private Eye, documented the latest escapades of Norman and pub stalwart Jeffrey Bernard who himself related his Coach and gin inspired anecdotes in his weekly ‘Low Life’ column for The Spectator magazine.
Norman was also immortalized in the successful West End play, ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’, based on a real incident in which Bernard spends the night musing over events in his life after he finds himself accidentally locked in overnight. The theatre set was a faithful recreation of the pub’s interior and starred another Coach regular Peter O’ Toole in the title role. Although Norman never appears on set his commanding off-stage presence lingers throughout. After years spent in the close company of the great and the not-so-good, Norman published his autobiography ‘You’re barred, You Bastards’ in 1991. The book’s launch party prompted a typical exchange between Bernard and Balon, ‘I’ve created a monster’ said Bernard. ‘Fuck off’ replied Balon. Norman retired on 22 May 2006 aged 79 saying, ‘I am getting too old. Everything in life has a season, I have had a fantastic life from it.’ And in a typically blunt but matter-of-fact turn he added ‘all my customers are my age and one by one they’re dropping off their bar stools.’ His last day at The Coach and Horses saw a gathering of Soho establishment figures including Beryl Bainbridge, members of The Private Eye team Ian Hislop, Richard Ingram and Francis Wheen and other pub regulars who came to pay tribute to a man who, despite his uncompromisingly harsh exterior, came to be held in great affection and earned himself a place in Soho history by contributing to it’s very unique character and spirit. "I've created a monster" said Bernard. 'F*** off' replied Balon. Norman retired on 22 May 2006 aged 79 saying, 'I am getting too old...'
Why our food is so yummy!
In March 2012 the Coach became London’s first and only vegetarian and vegan pub. This approach to food was introduced by the landlord Alastair Choat who had been mulling over this significant change for over a year before he finally took the plunge.
‘There are a whole host of reasons for this change’ said Alastair, ‘ But in the main it reflects my belief that we need to be more sustainable in our approach to food, more responsible with the waste we produce, more aware of the welfare of our planet and be more able to reflect on the enormity of mass farming and slaughter of animals. There are of course significant health benefits to eating a more varied vegetarian diet and reducing or cutting out meat completely.
However, the Coach is not there to preach but to offer customers a whole new reason to not only go to the pub but also a different way of eating when you are there.
The food is simple traditional fare which includes such favourites as Tofush and Chips (vegan), Welsh Rarebit, Beetroot Ravioli and our vegetarian pies. Our food is seasonal and freshly prepared from fresh ingredients. We will be looking to continuously evolve our menu and are looking to embrace some of the amazing vegetarian and vegan dishes that are widely available throughout Europe.
Changing our pub food to vegetarian and vegan has been a great success and we have seen a whole new customer base visiting the pub on a regular basis.
The menu at the Coach changes seasonally but always includes our customers favourites such as Tofush and Chips and Welsh Rarebit. Over the coming months we are looking at how we can regularly develop and change our menu to provide an exciting range of different food as well as our house staples.
Every Sunday we have our four Sunday Roasts served all day. We offer two vegetarian roasts and two vegan roasts.
Enjoy a modern twist on the classic enjoyment of a piano singalong
The Coach piano sing-a-long started six years ago and is on every Wednesday and Saturday night. People travel from all over the UK to come to these hugely successful and fun nights. They are very much gather round the piano and sing as in the good old days! Pretty much everyone joins in singing old time favourites such as Knees up Mother Brown, My Old Mans a Dustman to Queen Bohemian Rapsody and even the occasional Madonna song and Blur!
The Coach performers have been playing here for years and each offer a slightly different approach, we have:
Mr Mererdith – the first pianist at the coach and a very renowned and seasoned cabaret performer in London and around the UK! Luke has been performing at the Coach and enticing customers to sing for 6.5 years now… Long may that continue!
The Magificent Betty – So christened because she is quite simply Magnificent! Betty started with us 5.5 years ago and has a fantastic repertoire and is so full of bonhomie that it is almost impossible not to join in!
Baz and Dave – These two certainly know how to put on a show and get everyone in the pub not only singing but also wearing crazy hats and playing a range of different musical instruments. They have a more of a rock n roll repatoire and with them there is ever a dull moment.
We have recently staged a sell out performance of Tricity Vogue’s Calamitous Liaisons in the dining room. A small and intimate affair and we were lucky enough to capture Tricity to perform these shows as she is without doubt one of London’s top performers as is evident by Time Out’s constant praise for her work. Watch this space for news of a new performance in 2014 from this world class cabaret act… its bound to be another sell out!
Private hire at the coach and horses
The pub dining room is available for private hire for up to 45 guests standing and 36 seated for a private dining event. The options are varied so it is best to email or call and speak with our restaurant manager for more details.
We can provide canapés or a sit down several courses
Tel: 0207 437 5920
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Coach and Horses Soho
29 Greek St, London W1D 5DH, Tel 0207 437 5920
Monday – Thursday : 11am – 11.30pm
Friday – Saturday : 11am – 12am
Sunday : 12pm – 10.30pm
Monday – Thursday : 12pm - 3pm and 5pm - 10pm
Friday – Saturday : 12pm - 10pm
Sunday: 12pm - 9pm
Enter your name and email address below to hear the latest news from us.