One of the things I do like is travelling by train. I come from a railway family and somehow it really is in the blood. Short or long, I like to bash a bit of track and keep my eye on which type of unit is at the front end. As well as meeting Erlanger Nick for a bummel round some Kentish pubs, I get a chance to take the Javelin (BR Class 395 don't you know), to deepest Kent. Fast and comfortable, and with my Senior Railcard, under 20 of your British pounds, what's not to like?
Our first destination was Whitstable, a place I didn't know at all, never having been there, but for Nick with his extended Thanet fetish, familiar territory. The weather was warm, I was on time, Nick was on time, so we set off through some attractive suburbia, heading for our first micropub of the day and what a good one it was too. The Tankerton Arms is a converted shop of some kind on a High St, rectangular inside with a few nice bits of ephemera and the beer at the back behind a plastic curtain, where it is stillaged in a cool room. We chose Kent Session Pale Ale and sat outside on the sole table, watching old ladies rummage through the outside display of the charity shop next door and other folks doing their shopping at the butcher's opposite. It was all very Warmington on Sea. So good was the beer and so comfortable the spot that we had a second before setting off for a fairly long walk to the next pub.
Hotel Continental is on the the sea front. Inside all was modern, spick and span and spotlessly clean. Beers from Whitstable Brewery were procured, both keg and cask and all were pretty good, as was the charming service and welcome from the two barmaids-cum-waitresses. We sat outside while Nick enjoyed some oysters. The Oyster Stout though was a disappointment. Served on CO2, it was headless and dull. Stick it on nitro and it would be transformed. Just say"no" to CO2 served stouts. They are dull as ditchwater. Despite the headless beer - all of it was - we left with some reluctance, not least of all because of the welcome. It does work you know.
Next a mistake. I liked the look of the Pearson's Arms just off the sea front. Two staff were busy mixing cocktails as we sat at the bar. Neither looked up. Much farting about took place and in a pub, otherwise empty apart from a young couple, both in turn went off upstairs where presumably others were awaiting their mixed drinks. As they came back neither acknowledged us again until I piped up. It had been seven and a half minutes without so much as a nod in our direction and no real apology for the omission either. We had a half each of Harvey's Best, which was, unsurprisingly, below par. Piss poor all round. We couldn't get out fast enough.
No such disappointment at the The Old Neptune, right on the sea. This is a clapperboarded delight and again the welcome was a warm one. We struck up a conversation with a delightful old man who had come on a commission to paint the pub. No, not with emulsion and gloss, but with oils. Astonishingly Nick sort of knew him from a forthcoming gallery exhibition in Broadstairs. This time the beer was spot on and two pints of Harveys Best later, we left, having had a great experience. It's the offer as I always say and this was cracking.
It all gets a bit disjointed after that. We visited The Peter Cushing, a JDW house where we duly experienced horror in the shape of two vinegary beers and a poor soul with a new tattoo of his just deceased brother's name on his arm. We commiserated with him as he explained further turmoil was imminent, as said tattoo had been expressly forbidden by his wife. We left our companion to his thoughts, me reflecting that all life can be found in the pub. Two more pubs for Whitstable though. One I can't remember, but was ordinary though pleasant enough I recall, and finally, the Black Dog, a micropub, where we had a nice chat to the barman and I agreed to disagree on cloudy beer.
Then to Margate, which I hadn't been to for many a year. Brilliant sunshine greeted us and we walked past a godawful, East European-like eyesore of a block of flats by the station. What were they thinking of when they gave that monstrosity planning permission? Skirting the front we walked to the harbour and the Harbour Arms. This micropub did nothing for me, nor did the stinking mud of the harbour, so I'll draw a veil over it. Nick quite liked it though.
Last stop was to meet Nick's Mrs (and their dog Tabor.) Becky is always an absolute delight and we snaffled the table for three under the open window of The Two Halves, which was buzzy, busy and just very good indeed. We caught up with each other while Tabor the dog made friends. We watched the sun go down until I had to go for my train. By this time I was drinking Rhubarb Cider because I could.
I may have nodded off once or twice on the way back to St Pancras, but I was actually relatively sober by the time I reached Tandleman Towers (South).
Oddly, we only really had two bad pubs beer wise. Most were actually good to very good, but it really is the welcome that sets pubs apart. Kent - well this part of it anyway is a delight. I can see why Nick likes it though the bugger is always lucky with weather. Unlike me.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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