Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Kentish Capers

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.


The Beer Nut said...

Whitstable and Margate? The heading should be "Capers of Kent".

Tandleman said...

I wondered who'd spot that one as Captain Mainwaring would say.

Curmudgeon said...

Travelling by train is fine as long as you can get a seat and aren't crammed in like sardines.

Tandleman said...

I respond to this from my seat in Virgin First Class. QED. One of my few indulgences.

The Javelin is big though. Plenty of room.

Tandleman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Bailey said...

I was last in Whitstable back in 2010, and wrote at the time, “Whitstable has become second home territory for an increasing number of affluent Londoners; colour supplement readers and the like! There has been the inevitable rise in property prices, and this influx of high-spending "outsiders" has led to a sharp increase in what pubs and restaurants are charging their customers. Whitstable isn't quite Southwold (yet), but it's fast becoming so.”

Despite all this, I still quite like the place, and having read your post will put Whitstable on the list of places to re-visit.

Good to read that you met up with Erlanger Nick. I thought Brexit had put paid to his plans to move to the UK, despite Thanet being very much on the up. Please pass on my best regards, next time you see him.

Other observations are, I too am not overly keen on Margate’s Harbour Arms; although it’s better if you can sit outside. (This assumes the sun is shining and the tide is in!). The seats on the Javelin trains are rather hard.

Glad you enjoyed the north-Kent coast. It’s a part of the country I don’t often get to visit, although I spent an enjoyable day in Faversham on Good Friday.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed that little Kent snapshot, Nick is rarely wrong.
"It really is the welcome that sets pubs apart" - spot on.
Acknowledgement when you bring the empties back helps too ;-)

Nick said...

Didn't see this post til just now. Was a very lovely day out, thanks for coming down. That Hotel Continental popped up just because it was a place with cask ale along the waterfront on the way in from Tankerton. And yes, what a find. Seems they have only Whitstable Brewing there, with the East India Pale Ale on cask, which was in lovely form and quite cool. About the best I've had that, and it can vary.

We'll be back to eat there...and never again at that Pearson's, where we had dined twice before. (Food's quite good, but you know the rest...) I can't recall if I tried to warn you off Pearson's or not. Experience in any case. Distress suppers, they were.

That artist we bumped into at the Neptune. I'd not met him before, but his paintings cover some walls at a Ramsgate pub where we often dine, the Churchill Tavern. We've admired his paintings, and nearly got round to buying a couple off him, but then didn't. Very funny coincidence.

Whitebait at the Neptune was a bit too breaded, but very fresh. Funny it's a Shepherd Neame place, isn't it.

The other pub was the Ship Centurion, a perennial GBG entry, perhaps deservedly. This was maybe my third or fourth visit, previous ones had seen me disappointed in the beer, but loving the place. What was there...Goachers, that's it. Light Ale & Mild.

The Harbour it when they've got Harvey's or Kent Session Pale on; this time there was fuck-all for good beer. I love the stenches of the sea though, and like having it there instead of a disused fisherman's supply shop. There be drunk nutters later on.

The Two Halves really is a well-done micropub. Even with fuck-all for good beer like that day. The first year, those windows didn't open and it was horribly hot and stuffy in there.

Martin, when have I ever been wrong? I'm just lucky that way. Well, except for the 21° pong at the Prince Albert, over and over again.

Paul, yes, we've written off the idea of moving to Thanet and starting up a business. But holidaying with the corrected exchange rate....

Unknown said...

I'm glad you enjoyed that little Kent snapshot, Nick is rarely wrong.
"It really is the welcome that sets pubs apart".
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Tabitha said...

The Neptune is a local classic, but you should have visited the world's smallest pub in Margate - a tiny one-woman-run bar in the middle of a pavilion of market stalls serving a handful of bottles and a couple of pulls. Great South East tour!

Tandleman said...

Only so much time but thanks for the tip.

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