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Secret Drinker bypasses Dover's Eight Bells Wetherspoon and finds the Golden Lion sports pub


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Finding myself with an hour or two to kill in the centre of Dover I set out to discover a decent town centre boozer.

The first place I came to was the Castle Inn but pints haven’t been pulled here for a good while, just round the corner I found the Roman Quay but the shutters were firmly pulled down at this one too, so I pressed on.

Round the next corner I spotted signs for the Roman Quay but as I got closer I realised the shutters on this one were also firmly closed and it doesn’t look as if pints have been pulled for some time
Round the next corner I spotted signs for the Roman Quay but as I got closer I realised the shutters on this one were also firmly closed and it doesn’t look as if pints have been pulled for some time
The first pub I came to was The Castle Inn, but it seems to have been converted into a hostel for backpackers
The first pub I came to was The Castle Inn, but it seems to have been converted into a hostel for backpackers

It didn’t feel like a Spoons’ day so I sidestepped the Eight Bells and a couple of doors further along the road also passed the Lava Lounge, again locked up tight.

The Eight Bells was definitely open and I almost ventured in but for some reason I just didn’t fancy a Spoons for a Sunday afternoon pint
The Eight Bells was definitely open and I almost ventured in but for some reason I just didn’t fancy a Spoons for a Sunday afternoon pint
The Lava Lounge seems to be a cocktail bar/club and I assume it perhaps opens later in the evening - anyway it was firmly closed at 4pm
The Lava Lounge seems to be a cocktail bar/club and I assume it perhaps opens later in the evening - anyway it was firmly closed at 4pm

Just beginning to give up hope I rounded one more corner and before I saw it, I heard the Golden Lion in Priory Street (the speaker outside has music blaring into the street, even on a Sunday afternoon).

I entered via the corner door of this small L shaped pub and very nearly went A over T as I stumbled up a cunningly disguised step dividing one half of the pub from the other. Unsurprisingly this led to a volley of mickey taking from Olwyn the Irish barmaid who told me most customers only trip up on their way out of the pub.

I asked what was the best beer but, having already run an eye along the pumps: Carling; Fosters; Amstel; John Smiths; Kronenbourg – I decided to try the 4.6% Madri.

Having chosen a Spanish lager Olwyn felt the need to add an appropriate accent even though the regulars dismissed her effort as a mix of Scottish, Pakistani and her own Irish twang.

The speaker over the door of The Golden Lion in Priory Street pumps music into the street, presumably to keep the smokers entertained.
The speaker over the door of The Golden Lion in Priory Street pumps music into the street, presumably to keep the smokers entertained.
The Golden Lion, 11 Priory Street, Dover CT17 9AA (55372144)
The Golden Lion, 11 Priory Street, Dover CT17 9AA (55372144)

There were already plenty of other guys sitting quietly at their own tables so I stuck with the theme and found myself a perch under the jukebox.

To my right there was a slightly classier area of the pub with pictures on the wall and books in a case by the fireplace and this space was occupied by better dressed folk, sporting natty scarves and brogues.

In reality, though, this place passes itself off as a sports pub by virtue of the fact it has three TV screens. While I was in two were showing the Cazoo UK open darts and one, which flickered constantly, featured obscure European football teams playing in their own national leagues.

The lower half of the bar has two TV screens, both showing a meaningless darts competition. If you look carefully you’ll spot the disguised step I tripped up in such an ungainly manner
The lower half of the bar has two TV screens, both showing a meaningless darts competition. If you look carefully you’ll spot the disguised step I tripped up in such an ungainly manner

There’s an empty rack, which used to house cues, and the remains of an old overhead light fitting indicating the lower half of the pub used to feature a pool table. Although, looking at the size of bar there can’t have been much room to wield a cue.

In the absence of any games in the pub, like darts or pool, and no proper sport on the telly, the regulars lined up at the bar like three not-so-wise monkeys decided to create their own entertainment.

The real regulars chose to prop themselves at one end of the bar where they were able to entertain, and shock, barmaid Olwyn in equal measure
The real regulars chose to prop themselves at one end of the bar where they were able to entertain, and shock, barmaid Olwyn in equal measure

This consisted of playing dodgy songs on the jukebox and, as the lyric from Salt-N-Pepa suggested, they chose to ‘talk about sex’. I hadn’t a clue what the phrases meant, though a shocked Olwyn emitted squeals of horror.

Fortunately the conversation shifted to diets and the three monkeys began debating who was the fattest. Olwyn popped to the loo and the newly-crowned fattest monkey stepped behind the bar to pour his own Guinness. When she returned they all disappeared out to the pavement at the front of the pub for a fag.

I took the opportunity to grab a second pint and a packet of crisps. The Kronenbourg was exactly the same price as the Madri, an exceptionally reasonable £3.10 but a packet of Tayto salt and vinegar was £1.20. I know people rave about these Irish crisps but they generally taste a little stale to me and always seem pricey.

The ad slogan on the front of the Tayto crisps reads ‘The Secret’s in the Flavour’ but in my experience the taste doesn’t live up to the price of this particular brand
The ad slogan on the front of the Tayto crisps reads ‘The Secret’s in the Flavour’ but in my experience the taste doesn’t live up to the price of this particular brand

At this point a family group of about 10 folks walked into the pub but were immediately told they couldn’t stay as there is a strict no kids after 4pm policy and it was now 10 past.

Olwyn’s response was first to apologise for swearing and then suggest their best option was to walk round to the local Wetherspoon, the Eight Bells.

The three locals stood at the bar continued to dominate, each with their own hacking cough as they cackled along to each other’s jokes – funnily enough you could still hear their conversation perfectly clearly through the thin, single door of the gents. While on the subject, the toilets weren’t too bad and, although they had a slight whiff generally appeared fairly clean.

I decided not to risk the step on the way out and avoided it by using the smoker’s door to exit.

The phrase ‘too much information’ is more relevant here than anywhere else and, having checked the sexual practices on urban dictionary there are two related to winter pastimes and one inner galactic operation I can assure you I will not be trying.

The gents were fairly well maintained and pretty clean – though the single, thin door meant conversations in the bar could still be heard clearly
The gents were fairly well maintained and pretty clean – though the single, thin door meant conversations in the bar could still be heard clearly
The gents were fairly well maintained and pretty clean – though the single, thin door meant conversations in the bar could still be heard clearly
The gents were fairly well maintained and pretty clean – though the single, thin door meant conversations in the bar could still be heard clearly

The Golden Lion, 11 Priory Street, Dover CT17 9AA

Decor: I like the wooden floorboards throughout and appreciated the beermats on every table, although every table in the place did seem to wobble and the unmarked step between the bars is lethal. **

Drink: The pint of 4.6% Spanish Madri was very pleasant and well served but it’s a shame there is not a greater variety of beers available on tap. I did spot an unused hand pump but don’t know when it last saw action. **

Price: A pint of Madri (even served with a dodgy accent) was only £3.10. A pint of Kronenbourg was exactly the same, very reasonable price but unfortunately a slightly stale tasting packet of crisps was £1.20 ****

Staff: Olwyn spent most time either entertaining the three locals at the bar or being entertained by them but seemed cheery enough with other folk too. ***

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