Like some other restaurants nearby that make great martinis, Horses is a place where you might feel compelled to use Hollywood as an adjective. But Horses has a special niche amongst its Hollywood peers. It takes some foresight to get a reservation, but there’s no swimming pool or judgy host like you’ll find at Sunset Tower. Horses blasts ’80s music and has red booths like Jones, but you could successfully celebrate a big anniversary here without being accused of last-minute planning. It’s sorta French like Gigi’s, but with less reliance on butter and more on precious vegetables. If we rode motorcycles, we’d ride one here and make a grand entrance with windswept hair and soft leather boots. Of all of these very-Hollywood spots, Horses has the most edge across the board. And the most horses.
You’ll notice horses everywhere, if you look closely, or if you’re a horse girl. There is a horse etched into the glassware, and onto your coaster. The butter pad comes shaped like a horse, and painted, ethereal horses gallop on the walls and in the skylight. If you’re on a date, you could say something like, “What’s with all the horses?” and then proceed to count them for sport. And for romance.
But the horses do serve a purpose. Before Horses, this space was a British pub called The Pikey. It was a neighborhood and industry mainstay—the kind of place where you’d wander in for a drink and end up staying for dinner. For several decades before The Pikey, the space was called Ye Coach & Horses. And the Horses people seem to understand the importance of preserving this local hang.
You’ll feel the history of the place as soon as you walk through the front door, which will land you in the main dining room. The same skinny red booths that only seat two are packed and the worn-in wooden bar invites you to please sit down and order a vesper. If you’re lucky, you’ll be seated in there, or perhaps in the windowless back room where it’s always unclear what time it is and the music is loud enough to block out your existential to-do list. In the adjacent room, however, where the open kitchen is on parade and the booths are rubber duck yellow, the atmosphere is a little too mellow. We fear you might miss out on the fun if you’re seated in here. It’s a crapshoot, and we hope that’s not your destiny.
The food does what it needs to do, and then some. You’ll find a tight menu that’s sort of French, and very seasonal California. You could come here and have a downright phenomenal cheeseburger on brioche topped with thinly sliced raw onions and served with fries. And that would be lovely, but you’d be missing out on some of Horses’ more special offerings. Like the sobrassada panino, which packs a punch with cured meat and gooey cheese but is pressed so thin it’s dainty enough for tea time. We love the tagliarini with clams and the undeniably cute cornish hen, and, for a familiar meal with a twist, you should order the butcher’s steak with celeriac dauphinoise and watercress. The steak has a proper crust and juicy center, but it’s the earthy celeriac with gruyere and what is likely a very generous amount of cream that we’d like to nominate for best side dish.
The anything-is-possible-tonight feel is alive and well at Horses. Just like The Pikey and Ye Coach & Horses before it, this space lives on as a Hollywood restaurant with good food and better people watching.
Smoked Salmon Lavash With Cress
A supreme appetizer. Lavash baked in house with air bubbles in all the right places hidden under a silky layer of salmon, finely chopped chives, and plenty of lemony cress sprigs. You can add caviar for $30, and we would endorse that decision.
This isn’t the first endive-based caesar we’ve encountered, but it is our favorite. The leaves are left whole so that, like precious canoes, they envelop toasty breadcrumbs, anchovy-fueled dressing, and parmesan confetti dust.
Tagliarini With Clams
An excellent plate of pasta we’d eat once a week. The messy nest of tagliarini is bouncy and al dente, with parsley, garlic, and plenty of chopped up clams. While you could order this as a main, we suggest using this as a pasta intermission between appetizers and something meatier.
Cornish Game Hen
On our first visit, the cornish hen with dandelion panzanella was so juicy and frankly adorable, that we picked up the bones and sucked every morsel of meat off the carcass. Other times, it has lacked some pop in flavor. Either way, it’s always perfectly cooked, and nice to look at. Get this if you’re a roast chicken person.
Cote De Porc
Depending on the season, this herb-crusted pork chop might come with baked peaches, yams, or so on. Unfortunately, those accompaniments have been the highlight of this dish each time we’ve ordered it. The chop itself has been dry in the middle and lacking in succulence.
If you’re looking for a complete meal on a plate, you’d take our advice and order this. The hanger steak is cooked just how you like it, and comes with a healthy handful of fresh, dressed watercress and a scoop of celeriac dauphinoise. The celeriac is whipped fluffy and light, but we appreciate that a few hunks are still at play. Finished off with a little gruyere, this might be the best bite at Horses.
Cheeseburger And Fries
If you don’t understand the appeal of smashpatties, this phenomenal burger is for you. All you’ll find between the Rockenwagner brioche bun is a thick, peppery patty that bleeds a little when you squish it, Wisconsin cheddar, and thinly sliced raw onions. It’s served with a heap of golden fries, a ramekin of mayo, and a bottle of Heinz 57. It’s bliss, but if it’s your first time at Horses, this is the least interesting thing on the menu.
Sheep’s Milk Cheesecake With Grappa Roasted Pear
This slice of cheesecake is so precious and gentle we kind of want to give it a binky. It’s decidedly not sweet at all, very creamy, and very mild. The roasted pear on the side is good on its own, but considering how delicate the cheesecake is, we’d prefer a fruit with a little more pop.