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Time for real fires and real ales


When its cold outside but its boring indoors, head out to one of Kent’s finest pubs, with a log fire, beamed ceilings and a good ale to keep the winter chill away. Chris Price reports.

Biddenden: Three Chimneys

Take a pew in one of the cosy rooms at this most Kentish of pubs, with frayed old books on thick hardwood shelves and hops lining the low, beamed ceilings. The name comes from the Seven Years’ War, when up to 3,000 French prisoners were kept at nearby Sissinghurst Castle. The French seamen were placed on parole in the area and allowed as far as the pub building, which they recognised by the junction of three roads, which they called Les Trois Chemins, which became the Three Chimneys. The building itselfdates back to 1420 and an extension has kept the traditional themes of the original half-timbered structure in mind. Serving cask ales, it won the award for Kent dining pub of the year in the Good Pub Guide recently. There’s five dining areas to pick from to sample the rustic food.

Address: Hareplain Road, Biddenden TN27 8LW

Contact: 01580 291472 orwww.thethreechimneys.co.uk

Brenchley: Halfway House

The fireplace, beamed ceilings, brick walls and wooden floors make this pub an ideal winter warmer to enjoy one of its 10 real ales. The best way to warm up is with a wee dram from the range of single malt whiskeys served. Built around 1750, the pub also has three en suite bed and breakfast rooms for those who over-indulge in this Wealden gem’s hospitality. If you like a decent pint, the Halfway House really is worth the trek out to.

Address: Horsmonden Road, Brenchley, near Paddock Wood TN12 7AX

Contact: 01892 722526 orwww.halfwayhouse-brenchley.co.uk

Brompton: King George V

Specialising in real ales, Belgian beers and malt whiskies, the bar is decorated in naval and military memorabilia as a nod to the Brompton Barracks, the home of the Royal Engineers, which is within walking distance. Built in 1690, the pub was known as the King of Prussia until 1914, when the name as the country entered the First World War. There are four real ales and pizza is available all day to eat in or takeaway. Other food is served in the evening from Tuesday to Saturday, with a Sunday roast in the afternoon and a free cheeseboard on Sunday evening. Above its old oak beams, the pub has a number of guest rooms including a four-poster overlooking the green and a family room. It is recognised by Cask Marque, checking all cask ales for temperature, aroma and taste.

Address: 1 Prospect Row, Brompton, ME7 5AL

Contact: 01634 842418 orwww.kgvpub.com

The Dolphin PH, Canterbury
The Dolphin PH, Canterbury

Canterbury: The Dolphin

CAMRA pub of the year for the area, it has five real ale pumps with beers from Gadds, Hopdaemon, the Old Dairy, Sharps and Timothy Taylor. A lively venue, popular with students, it has some unusual but tasty items on the menu, such as the honey-glazed ham and bubble and squeak with two fried eggs and salad for £10.50. The Dolphin Goat Quiz on the first Monday of the month is very competitive, with the quizmaster making up his own questions. The prize is an Oxfam goat and the prestige of having your team name added to the trophy. The beer garden is a smashing spot for a pint in the summer.

Address: 17 St Radigunds Street, Canterbury, CT1 2AA

Contact: 01227 455963 orwww.thedolphincanterbury.co.uk

Cobham: The Leather Bottle

Famed for its link to Charles Dickens, who stayed at the 17th century inn and featured the village in the Pickwick Papers, this is one of three cosy pubs – along with the Darnley Arms and the Ship – within a few hundred yards of each other. The half-timbered building dates to 1629 and took its name about 1720, when a leather bottle containing gold sovereigns was found on the premises. Punters can browse through the old-fashioned books on display. and parking is easy in the 40 space car park. There are four real ales, one of which is Charles Dickens Ale, made by Shepherd Neame, which can only be found in this pub. “It’s a good session ale,” said owner Bryan Treleaven. The restaurant has a gluten-free menu and the pub has five en suite rooms, one of which is a bridal suite.

Charles Dickens Ale
Charles Dickens Ale

Visitors can also see a piece of Charles Dickens in the flesh at the Leather Bottle – a piece of hair to be precise.

A single stand belonging to the Victorian author was donated to the pub last month and is taking pride of place next to his briefcase, which he left behind after staying there as he wrote the Pickwick Papers.

The hair was raffled to raise money for the restoration of the chalet in Rochester where Dickens wrote many of his works.

Tickets were bought from around the world but it was one of the regulars who won the prize and gave it to the pub.

“We couldn’t believe it was one of the locals who won it,” said landlord Bryan Treleaven. “We had all the cameras and the mayor come down. It was a good day out. Dickens used to stay in room two and wrote a lot of the Pickwick Papers in there.

“But the main reason people come here is the good service and good, wholesome food, which is all cooked fresh. We serve everything from pheasant to rabbit, game and steak and chips.”

Address: 54-56 The Street, Cobham DA12 3BZ

Contact: 01474 814327 orwww.theleatherbottle.co.uk

Dartford: The Wat Tyler

An ale house visited by travellers for centuries, named after the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, who stopped at the tavern to quench his thirst with his troupe on their way to London, or so the story goes. Serving five real ales, the pub carries a historical feel at every corner, thanks to its various nooks and crannies. With a friendly atmosphere, this is one of the few town centre pubs around that puts the locals first.

Address: 80 High Street, Dartford DA1 1DE

Contact: 01322 272546

The Five Bells, Eastry
The Five Bells, Eastry

Eastry: The Five Bells

A pub well known for its petanque, al fresco dining and barbecues in the summer, when winter comes it brings a burning log fire and homecooked meals served all day. Food is reasonably priced, with a three-course Sunday roast for £12.50. At the heart of the village, the pub has been running since 1675 and has been revamped in the last five years, without losing its rustic flavour. There are also three bed and breakfast rooms.

Address: The Five Bells, The Cross, Lower Street, Eastry CT13 0HX

Contact: 01304 611188 orwww.thefivebellseastry.com

Faversham: The Phoenix Tavern

A Cask Marque pub which many readers of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide will have stumbled upon. Snuggle up on the comfy couches next to the inglenook fireplace with a real ale or one of the pub’s notable selection of single malt whiskeys. A charity quiz night takes place on the first and third Monday of the month and a poetry club meets every second Tuesday.

Address: Abbey Street, Faversham ME13 7BH

Contact: 01795 591462 orwww.thephoenixtavernfaversham.co.uk

The Firkin Ale House, Folkestone
The Firkin Ale House, Folkestone

Folkestone: The Firkin Ale House

A micropub which used to be a hairdressers. There’s no television, no fruit machines, no jukebox, no food, no spirits and no lager. Oh, and mobile phones are also banned. A complete rejection of the big chain philosophy, what punters do get is a friendly atmosphere and fine real ales, brewed only by microbreweries. Tipples to try include Hythe’s Hop Fuzz Brewery, Canterbury’s Wantsum Brewery and Chatham’s Nelson Brewery. A simple way to enjoy a pint. Closed on Mondays.

Neil King, landlord of the Firkin Alehouse, Folkestone
Neil King, landlord of the Firkin Alehouse, Folkestone

Anyone caught using their phone in the Firkin Alehouse in Folkestone gets short shrift from the guv’nor.

“We have got a charity pot and if a phone goes off or you answer it there is a minimum £1 fine,” said landlord Neil King, pictured, who launched the micropub in November.

“It promotes conversation, as opposed to people chatting on the phone to people who are not in the room. It also makes for a better drinking experience as there is no one tapping away on their phone.”

Money from the pot goes to Shepway-based learning disabilities charity HFT.

Address: 18 Cheriton Place, Folkestone CT20 2AZ

Contact: 07894 068432 orwww.firkinalehouse.co.uk

Hollingbourne: The Windmill

A gastropub taken over by celebrity chef Richard Phillips last summer, who also runs Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells and the Hengist in Aylesford. The pub area is comfy but sharp, and after sampling the real ales and new world wines, it will be hard to resist the temptation of the ambitious menus, divided into a la carte and a set three-course winter menu for £29.50. One main to look out for is the whole-roasted breast of Birley Estate pheasant, stuffed with marinated port prunes, roasted pumpkin, chanterelle mushroom and a celeriac fondant. Wow. A great stopping point for anyone visiting Leeds Castle.

Address: 32 Eyhorne Street, Hollingbourne, Maidstone ME17 1TR

Contact: 01622 889000 orwww.thewindmillbyrichardphillips.co.uk

Hucking: Hook and Hatchet

Hidden in the back roads close to the Showground at Detling, near Maidstone, the work of Kent artists grace the walls, with original 15th century floors and fireplaces. Under new management for nearly a year now, Hook and Hatchett at Hucking (don’t try saying that after one too many) has had a new lick of paint and is right next to the Woodland Trust’s Hucking Estate, with 560 acres of countryside open to the public. A Shepherd Neame pub, serving the Faversham-based brewery’s ales.

Address: Church Road, Hucking, Maidstone ME17 1QT

Phone: 01622 880399 orwww.shepherdneame.co.uk

John Newick at The Lifeboat Ale and Cider House, Margate
John Newick at The Lifeboat Ale and Cider House, Margate

Margate: The Lifeboat Ale and Cider House

An informal, slightly eccentric real ale and cider lovers’ drinking hole, ideal for a quick pint. Punters often play classic pub games like dominoes and draughts next to the warm fireplace. Regular beers are Goachers from Maidstone, Whitstable Brewery, Westerham Brewery as well as ciders from Rough Old Wife and Biddenden. The pub always serves food and has just launched a revised menu, serving every single Kent cheese in existence. “We have got a very laid back, relaxed approach to things,” said founder and owner Julian Newick, who grew up in Margate and opened the pub three years ago. “It’s a very pleasant place to be with the fire going.” But lager lovers beware, you will not find it here.

Address: 1 Market Street, Margate, Kent, CT9 1EU

Contact: 07837 024259 orwww.thelifeboat-margate.com

Milstead: Red Lion

A few miles outside Sittingbourne is this fantastic country pub, featured in the Michelin Pub Guide. There’s a blackboard highlighting the European-style dishes that change with the seasons and are served from noon to 2.30pm and then from 6.45pm to 9.30pm. “People come back because of our 30 years of experience in the area,” said landlord Patrick Coevoet, 48, who moved to Kent from northern France, aged 21, to take a job at the now closed Hounds Eating House on Faversham’s West Street. “We work hard and use local produce which changes throughout the seasons.” There is a large patio and garden for the summer months. The pub closes from 3.30pm to 6.30pm and is only open Tuesday to Saturday.

Address: Rawling Street, Milstead, ME9 0RT

Contact: 01795 830279 orwww.theredlionmilstead.co.uk

The Six Bells, Northfleet
The Six Bells, Northfleet

Northfleet: The Six Bells

Originally a coaching inn, dating back to about 1760, the Six Bells prides itself on its food, with curry nights every Friday and a well-renowned homemade steak and ale pie available daily. The pub is divided between the modern restaurant and two beamed bars, serving some decent ales and plenty of lager. A huge family beer garden is a great selling point for milder days.

Address: Old Perry Street, Northfleet DA11 8BT

Contact: 01474 567309 or www.thesixbells.info

Rochester: The Coopers Arms

A stone’s throw from the cathedral and castle sits this 12th century pub, reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a monk who was bricked up and left to die nearby. Do not fear, though, as the phantom apparently only appears once every November. Tucked away from the tourist driven High Street, this friendly and authentic Kentish drinking hole always has about six good beers on tap.

Address: 10 St Margaret’s Street, Rochester ME1 1TL

Contact: 01634 404298

Sandwich: The George and Dragon

First opened in 1446, this Cask Marque alehouse is hidden in the back streets of the town. Beamed ceilings and a log-burning fire provide a comfy setting for sampling the guest ales but a modern twist comes from the traditional food served, such as the grilled pork chop with apple and bacon colcannon and mustard cream sauce for £13.

Address: 24 Fisher Street, Sandwich CT13 9EJ

Contact: 01304 613106 orwww.georgeanddragon-sandwich.co.uk

The Plough, Stalisfield Green
The Plough, Stalisfield Green

Stalisfield Green: The Plough

Nestling at the top of the North Downs is this proper country pub, built sometime between 1350 and 1450. The pub’s philosophy is to support Kent food and drink, with four hand pumps serving an ever changing array of ales from the county’s breweries. They also stock Kentish bottled water, fruit juices from Challock and always have Biddenden Bushells cider on draught. Ingredients come from the likes of Hinxton Farm Dairy, Griggs of Hythe and Cheesemakers of Cantebury. Set the sat nav and put The Plough on your 2013 must visit list, it’s well worth the effort.

Address: Stalisfield Green, near Charing ME13 0HY

Contact: 01795 890256 orwww.stalisfieldgreen.co.uk

Tenterden: The Vine Inn

In the heart of the former Cinque Port, this Sheps pub is warm and bright. The food is a big factor in its high return rate, with specials on the blackboard and a Sunday roast with freshly-made Yorkshires and seasonal vegetables. Eat in the restaurant, the conservatory bar or, on warmer days, in the garden. The pub couldn’t be better placed for a visit to the Kent and East Sussex Railway.

Address: 76 High Street, Tenterden TN30 6AU

Phone: 01580 762718 orwww.shepherdneame.co.uk

The Joiners Arms, West Malling
The Joiners Arms, West Malling

West Malling: The Joiners Arms

There are plenty of places to enjoy a drink in West Malling, but the Joiners certainly ticks all the right boxes. Cracking, no nonsense food, good beer, plenty of banter and a hearty welcome, the Joiners has been getting it right since the early 1700s. But it’s a pub that’s certainly not stuck in the past. A substantial investment has been lavished on the Grade II listed building in recent times – improving the bars, courtyard and, most impressively of all, the accommodation above the pub that now boasts four designer, boutique bedrooms. In a prime location, bang on the High Street, the pub is well worth checking out – especially for the roaring fire on a damp January afternoon.

Address: 64 High Street, West Malling ME19 6LU

Contact: 01732 840723 orwww.no64thejoiners.co.uk

Whitstable: Pearson’s Arms

Another of celebrity chef Richard Phillips’ establishments, serving real ales, fine wines and wholesome food. Facing out across the beach, the stressed wood decor inside is painted in lots of blues, nodding to the fishing trade and the colourful beach huts along the seafront. The finish is much cleaner than some “pubby” pubs. The main dining area is upstairs and the food is what you would expect from a man who was head chef for Marco Pierre White at the Criterion, Mirabelle and Les Saveurs. If that was not reason enough to check it out, on Sundays children under seven eat free.

Address: Horsebridge Road, Whitstable CT5 1BT

Contact: 01227 773133 orwww.pearsonsarmsbyrichardphillips.co.uk

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