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Secret Drinker reviews the Crown Inn, Finglesham, near Deal

The hamlet of Finglesham, near Deal, may not be massive, but it’s big enough to support a sizeable pub which combines big business sense with a community feel.

The Crown Inn on The Street is a traditional village pub with a wealth of history and character but its owners also have an eye on the prize and are fully aware a boozer needs a business brain.

The Crown is in the hamlet of Finglesham, near Deal
The Crown is in the hamlet of Finglesham, near Deal

The front door delivers a country pub feel, but a heavy green metal gate to the right leads to a huge well established garden and at the back there’s a big barn which is clearly used for a whole host of events.

And beyond this, the driveway leads to a whole series of purpose-built modern holiday lets.

It was a bustling, hectic bar, but the busy staff still found time to welcome us and it wasn’t too long before we got served.

There was a selection of three real ales available on draught, all clocking in at 3.8% and all priced at £4.40 a pint.

After a swift taste test I opted for a Razor Back from the Ringwood Brewery – hoppy enough with plenty of citrus tang, it’s a very quaffable, easy-drinking beer.

The pint was fine but Mrs SD left her sauv blanc
The pint was fine but Mrs SD left her sauv blanc

Mrs SD had selected her usual large sauvignon blanc and also checked to see if they could fit us in for a bite to eat.

It was busy and they said the dining room was packed to capacity, but they were happy to serve us in the bar if we could find ourselves a table.

A local, who must have been listening in, very kindly rose to move to a stool at the bar saying he had already finished eating and didn’t want to stay too much longer as he need to be up for work by 5.30am tomorrow, which sounded a bit rough for a Sunday.

Taking him up on his generous offer I chose chilli and garlic mussels for £10 with a side of fries at £4.

As has been reported previously, Mrs SD finds it hard to resist a good-looking crust so she went for the pie of the day, beef, lamb and potato for £17.

The Secret Drinker enjoyed mussels and fries on his visit
The Secret Drinker enjoyed mussels and fries on his visit
The meat pie and gravy
The meat pie and gravy

There’s plenty of tradition and history here, a wealth of old beams, stripped wooden floorboards, a pile of beer mats on the table and a selection of cheeky old signs dotted around the gents.

However, they’re not afraid of making changes when required – the dartboard was hidden away behind our table and is now only used on odd occasions for friendly games.

There used to be two men’s teams and one ladies but they never came back after Covid, so the space has been reused.

Apparently there also used to be a pool table, but unlike the darts, our waitress was very clear she is delighted it’s gone as it was a “pain in her proverbial”.

The strip light behind the bar, displaying all the colours of the rainbow, must be a new addition and I reckon the last round of decorating introduced as many shades of trendy grey paint as possible, not quite 50 shades, but not far off.

Some punters braved the rain to get to the gazebo
Some punters braved the rain to get to the gazebo
The dining area was smart and comfortable
The dining area was smart and comfortable

Everyone in the dining room seemed very happy with the service they were receiving and one brave group had even battled through the rain to take up residence in a covered pagoda on the far side of the garden.

A small huddle of slightly too self-important locals on stools were cluttering up the right-hand side of the bar and philosophising on subjects ranging from NHS funding to horsey nonsense.

But such locals were in a minority and although the place did have a fairly upmarket feel I can report there were also plenty of fluorescent work trouser wearers in during our Saturday evening visit.

Both the gents’ toilets and the ladies’ loos were well-presented, clean and fresh.

The only advice I would give is to be extremely careful using the hand drier as you’re positioned dangerously close to the opening door – it’s probably safer going for the hand towels.

The gents' loo was a tight fit
The gents' loo was a tight fit

There’s a good play area for the kids and I assume the deflated bouncy castle goes down a storm when the sun shines during the day.

It was a busy Saturday night and we were pleased they could fit us in but judging by Mrs SD’s meal I’d say the kitchen may have been a little overstretched.

The pub manages to achieve that tricky balance of creating a busy bar area for locals but plenty of dining tables for those wishing to eat.

However, this pub visit will live long in my memory as it concluded with a unique, astonishing occurrence. All I will say is, I rated my beer and polished it off fairly quickly, but Mrs SD departed the Crown Inn without finishing her wine!

A rare sight indeed - Mrs SD left some of her wine. She must be ill
A rare sight indeed - Mrs SD left some of her wine. She must be ill

The Crown Inn, The Street, Finglesham, Deal CT14 0NA

Decor: There is a large dining room and even bigger garden for when the sun shines, but the pub still retains a bar area for locals. The old and the new are well balanced here with plenty of old beams, good lighting and comfortable furnishings. ****

Drink: To have a choice of three real ales on draught is impressive and the Razor Back was a really good pint. I also tasted Rare Breed from Butcombe Brewery, but didn’t go for it as it was a poor second and relatively tasteless. That Mrs SD left some wine tells you all you need to know! **

Price: Each of the ales were £4.40, which is pretty good. A large wine was £7.50 and given Mrs SD’s pie was also £17, she wasn’t a particularly cheap date – the mussels were better value at a tenner. **

Food: My mussels were good and the fries were crisp and well-seasoned. The pie filling was good, but the rest of the meal was a little under par, perhaps the result of a busy kitchen. ***

Staff: It was a very busy Saturday night but we were served speedily and both the barmaid and waitress still found time for a friendly word and seemed to be enjoying their shift. ****

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