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Secret Drinker reviews the Railway Inn at Sole Street, Gravesend

It’s basically a load of old blokes sitting around the bar supping pints and moaning about the world, although they were joined by 2/3 women at one point, who also supped pints and moaned.

The Railway Inn is a proper old pub where traditions continue unquestioned and anything, or anyone, who enters from another world is treated with great suspicion.

The bar area at the Railway Inn, Sole Street
The bar area at the Railway Inn, Sole Street

Having said everyone was supping pints, I must correct myself, Baz had just finished a bottle of rose wine and arranged for a replacement to be supplied to his personal ice bucket on the bar.

The chat and mood at this Sole Street boozer lifted momentarily as one regular’s upcoming holiday to Jamaica was discussed briefly.

However, order was restored when the landlady and two more regulars first began debating the worst disease you can contract and moved on to say how surprised they were at the length of time Stephen Hawking survived.

Most folks were on the Kronenbourg and the only beer on tap was Doom Bar so, in an effort to fit in, I too went the Kronie route.

I haven’t visited such a functional boozer for a long time and everyone was either seated directly at the bar or in the tented smoking area at the front. There were a few bottles of sauce and other condiments on a table so I presume they must serve food at some point.

The bar area at the Railway Inn, Sole Street
The bar area at the Railway Inn, Sole Street

I tried forging a conversation a couple of times but was first ignored, and then dismissed out of hand, so decided to be the only person sitting away from the bar.

The liveliest, and brightest, thing in the pub was the fruit machine which, like me, was also ignored, despite giving off some powerful rays of colourful light.

Much of the pub is painted a sort of beige, perhaps mushroom colour, and the decoration feels a little tired. In fact, that’s probably the best description for not just the décor, but also the mood and the way it might make you feel – if there was an award for a pub most likely to send you to sleep this would be a top contender.

The landlady was, by far, the best-dressed person in the pub, sporting a black and white outfit with gold pumps but even she was as suspicious of anyone new.

At this point I realised the landlady’s decision to prop up the very left hand side of the bar was no accident as the landlord was occupying the middle seat on the far right and was very much mixing in with the gang of regulars.

The dining area of the Railway Inn, Sole Street
The dining area of the Railway Inn, Sole Street

Locals seemed to be keeping several in the wood so rather than taking cash or swiping cards the landlady simply made a note on a series of paper tabs pinned to a board behind the bar.

The darkened fireplace contains a powerful looking log burner which must be capable of warming the frostiest of atmospheres when required and above it is a hefty empty blackboard.

There is also a large rolled up projector screen which must be useful when there’s a decent sporting event worth watching.

The jukebox was randomly playing background music but when something came on which was deemed unsuitable or unworthy someone (I assume Landlady Lynne) was fast forwarding the track. I should mention I was surprised and pleased in equal measure when she chose to play She Said by Plan B all the way through.

There is a good sized garden and although it was empty while I was in it is well kept, with a decent looking play area for the kids and plenty of picnic tables.

The bar area at the Railway Inn, Sole Street
The bar area at the Railway Inn, Sole Street

At the far end there is a huge, very well maintained, gravelled area set up specifically to host petanque matches and I assume it is a Mecca for the game in this area.

During a brief toilet break I was pleased to note they still use a traditional mop and bucket and someone had obviously given them a good clean ahead of opening.

This brief trip to the facilities also delivered the strangest moment of my visit as I spotted a gorilla gazing down at me from the ceiling. The message on it read ‘Darrans mirror’ and as the mirror in the toilet was missing I assume some wag had put the picture in its place as a joke.

It’s found it hard to imagine the locals getting too excited, let alone become upbeat, about anything and the only person I saw smile while I was in was Michael – and he, by his own admission, has to start work at 6.30am, having already walked the dog.

I took a decision this was an hour-and-a-half of my life I wasn’t going to get back and after a brief look round the garden, cut my losses, left the regulars to their Kronenbourg and headed back down the track.

The loos at the Railway Inn, Sole Street
The loos at the Railway Inn, Sole Street
The gorilla picture in the loos of the Railway Inn, Sole Street
The gorilla picture in the loos of the Railway Inn, Sole Street

The Railway Inn, Sole Street, Meopham, Gravesend DA13 0XY

Decor: Beige, bordering on the mushroom, much of the decoration is looking a little tired and bedraggled. The best used, and most loved, items in The Railway Inn are definitely the stools at the bar. **

Drink: From what I could see there was Coors, Kronenbourg, Fosters, Doom Bar, John Smiths, Thatchers and Moretti on draught. Both the lagers I sampled were fine but the choice isn’t great and I didn’t get to try Baz’s wine. **

Price: I suppose I should be grateful to find a lager under a fiver but £4.80 for a pint of Kronenbourg and £5.40 for Moretti isn’t particularly cheap in this neck of the woods. ***

Staff: The landlady, like the pub, was functional and did a job. I’d like to say she was ably supported by Dave the landlord but… **

The garden at the Railway Inn, Sole Street
The garden at the Railway Inn, Sole Street

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