Published: 05:00, 12 November 2021
| Updated: 08:48, 18 November 2021
Don’t tell the boss, but I was only working 100 yards down the road so it would have been rude not to pop in for a pint, wouldn’t it?
The Old Coach & Horses, sitting half way up Church Hill in Harbledown, near Canterbury, promotes itself as a ‘gastro pub’ and this, added to the fact a pair of metrosexuals, with matching beards and a lack of socks, slipped out of a black Range Rover and into the bar just ahead of me, set alarm bells ringing.
But my fears were misplaced, it might offer good food at slightly steeper prices but there’s also plenty of space for those just wanting a drink and a chat so, kicking off my work boots, I ordered a pint.
I selected The Friar’s from The Canterbury Ales which describes itself as a Kentish Session IPA and is a very decent 4.3 per cent pint which packs the type of flavour you might expect from a far higher number.
It was the barman’s first shift and the waitress was fairly new too, but they were both ably marshalled by the manageress for the day, Olivia.
Plenty of folk were in to eat and there was a steady stream of diners being shown to tables – for a weekday lunchtime it was very busy.
The fellows from the Range Rover had joined other diners upstairs to talk business and I was left to chat to the new barman while he poured drinks for the various tables.
Although new to this neck of the woods we had a few things in common, apart from our age, and I discovered he now goes to the same college I attended (many moons ago) as well as previously working at a bar I’ve already reviewed, The Malling Jug.
The manageress also found a moment to join the conversation and admitted that, despite its name, the pub isn’t actually an old coach house. That was further up the hill and where we were sitting was in fact the old coaching inn.
Having established this important detail I walked around Charlie, a cross between a deerhound and a saluki, who is too old and established to move for anyone, and got another pint in. This time I sampled the Meantime Pale Ale, which set me back a further 90p a pint and, although pleasant enough, wasn’t as tasty as drink number one.
A second hound, a black Labrador by the name of Bilbo Baggins, was also in but unlike resident Charlie who belongs to the owner, I believe Bilbo was just there for the day as Olivia was looking after him as a favour to her boyfriend.
Anyway, the point is, you can be assured this is a pub which welcomes dogs.
There are no distractions like darts, pool, fruit machines or even a juke box but the music is played at a level where it provides a pleasant background without dominating. I wouldn’t say all the tunes were my era but I did notice KT Tunstall’s Suddenly I See was followed by one of Madness’ best.
The food had been coming out regularly and both looked and smelled fantastic – not that I’m not grateful for a packed lunch from Mrs SD!
One of several blackboards was promoting a two-for-one steak night which did look good value.
The pub has obviously returned to hosting live events and I spotted promotions for a few bands in coming months. Also, if I’m not mistaken, there seemed to be a discussion about some sort of live theatre show, though this may have taken place by the time you read this.
The gents, at the back of the main bar, is well decorated and maintained, it also offered a choice between hand towels and a hand drier.
The garden rises reasonably steeply behind the pub and there is a fair bit of seating on several levels, however if steps are not your thing there is another very well appointed outdoor seating area at road level.
On the opposite side of the pub, just beyond the front door, there is a sign for a footpath which literally runs along the wall of the pub, so perhaps this could be a good stopping off point after a decent dog walk?
It was a busier lunchtime than the barman working his first shift had been led to believe it would be. I can report there was a good buzz in both the dining rooms and the bar, I thoroughly enjoyed this particular gastro pub.
The Old Coach & Horses, Church Hill, Harbledown, Canterbury CT2 9AB
Decor: The dining areas, both downstairs and up, felt open and welcoming but The Old Coach has still created a bar where you feel comfortable having a pint with the regulars, with or without, socks! ****
Drink: A gentleman at the bar said a pint of The Friars might be a little much for me but, as I pointed out at the time, I was prepared to take the risk and was I glad I did – a great pint. They have a guest beer each week to accompany the regular offerings. ****
Price: It isn’t cheap, but given the proximity to Canterbury I don’t think £4.30 was extortionate for an IPA. However, the Meantime version was almost a quid more at £5.20. ***
Staff: They might have been new, but both the barman and waitress were helpful, attentive and keen to learn. And, he’ll soon master pouring a Peroni. ****