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16 Kent pubs in the AA Pub Guide 2020 named in 'Pick of the Pubs'

ByRebecca Tuffin

When the weather is so good, an afternoon in a pub garden is often an idea that springs to mind.

To make sure you make the most of the chance to enjoy a drink, a list of the best pubs across the UK has just been published, with 58 from Kent making the cut.

The 21st Pub Guide released by AA Publishing today also includes a list of 500 'Pick of the Pubs' with an extra special touch, including 16 of the county's taverns.

The list comprises of establishments serving delicious food, local ales and most importantly, wonderful atmosphere.

Kent is ranked eighth highest for the most 'Pick of the Pubs', out of a total 98 regions. Check them out below to see if one is near you.

The Bull

The Street, Benenden, Cranbrook

The Bull. Picture: Google street view
The Bull. Picture: Google street view

Homemade pies, suet pudding and beer-battered haddock are just a few home comfort highlights on The Bull menu.

Scollops and mushrooms in white wine cream are also on offer.

Nestled on the side of Bendenden village green, the 17th century pub boasts an enormous inglenook fireplace, antique furniture and authentic oil paintings mounted on bare brick walls.

Plenty of local brews, including Biddenden cider and Larkins of Kent are served alongside a selection of Kentish wines.

Horses and dogs are welcome, with amples of parking.

The Kentish Hare

Bidborough Ridge, Bidborough, Tunbridge Wells

The Kentish Hare. Picture: Google street view
The Kentish Hare. Picture: Google street view

Saved from demolition a few years ago, the white weatherboards of The Kentish Hare enclose a stylish, modern interior.

Large beams stretch across the open-planned dining room, and chefs can be seen busily working through an opening between the kitchen and dining area.

In the bar, you’ll find the pub's own real ale, brewed in-house, and Jake’s Orchard cider from Tonbridge.

The Kentish Hare's cuisine is a little more refined than typical pub food and local produce is used when possible.

Whipped goats' cheese with beetroot, and sage gnocchi with butternut squash, parmesan and pickled wild mushrooms are two picks of the menu.

The Three Chimneys

Hareplain Rd, Biddenden, Ashford

The Three Chimneys. Picture: Google street view
The Three Chimneys. Picture: Google street view

With its low oak beams, aged hops and worn brick floors, The Three Chimneys is as cosy as it gets.

Starting life in 1420 as a simple country alehouse, the quaint pub has a fairytale exterior with chimney pots and multi-paned windows.

For cheese-lovers, parcels of deep-fried breadcrumbed brie with an apple and celery salad and fruity Cumberland sauce should satisfy cravings.

Wilkes port and sage sausages, mash, spring greens with port and red onion gravy also features on the menu.

The 8.4% Biddenden cider is tapped direct from the cask.

The Dove Inn

Plumpudding Ln, Dargate, Faversham

The Dove Inn. Picture: Google street view
The Dove Inn. Picture: Google street view

About half-way between Faversham and Whitstable, this 18th century village pub stands among wooded hills and fruit orchards - this is the Garden of England, after all.

Part of the Shepherd Neame group, based in the same town, it was refurbished and reopened last year under new ownership.

The dining area feels much like a country kitchen, with fresh white walls and dusty blue furnishings.

A log burner keeps The Dove cosy during the winter months, with outdoor seating in the garden to enjoy an ice-cold cider in the heat of summer.

A pitch for summer games welcomes players of the traditional 'bat and trap', a pub game which survives in Kent.

Hearty food, sourced from local ingredients when possible, is available alongside Shepherd Neame's own ales.

Shipwright's Arms

Hollowshore, Faversham

Shipwright's Arms. Picture: Google street view
Shipwright's Arms. Picture: Google street view

Shipwright’s Arms was first licensed in 1738 and has been favoured be sailors and fishermen ever since.

Set in the remote Swale Marshes, the brick and weatherboarded pub oozes in character.

Best reached by foot or boat, visitors are welcomed by a wealth of maritime artefacts and original beams.

Locally-brewed Goacher’s ales paired with some traditional pub grub make for a wholesome lunch.

Fresh fish often frequents the specials board, with mussels and beef casserole favourites on the standard menu.

The Star & Eagle

High Street, Goudhurst

The Star & Eagle. Picture: Google street view
The Star & Eagle. Picture: Google street view

This black and white beamed tavern stands proud within a Wealden hill village, outstanding views of surrounding orchards and hop gardens stretching out below.

During the 18th century, The Star & Eagle Inn became the headquarters of the "Hawkhurst Gang", who robbed and terrorised the surrounding district, and planned smuggling raids, until angry villagers sent them packing.

The house classic is a less traditional Spanish paella -a mix of chicken, salty chorizo, tender prawns and Valencia rice.

Venison burgers and a braised shoulder of lamb are also on offer.

The Great House

Hawkhurst, Cranbrook

The Great House. Picture: Google street view
The Great House. Picture: Google street view

With more oak beams and weatherboards, The Great House is an equally charming pub to the rest.

Tucked away along a lane in a tranquil hamlet, the tavern is more than 400 years old.

Eclectic furnishings and heavy curtains made with sacks used by hop pickers makes for a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.

Well-stocked with the ever-reliable Harvey's Brewery ales, The Great House also hosts an annual beer festival.

The menu combines classic English dishes with a dash of French brasserie - pigeon and figs and Kentish wild boar burger with fried duck eggjust some of the highlights.

The Dirty Habit

Upper St, Hollingbourne, Maidstone

The Dirty Habit. Picture: Google street view
The Dirty Habit. Picture: Google street view

The Dirty Habit was a monk’s ale house in the 11th century, with pilgrims passing on their way to Canterbury to refresh themselves and rest.

An outdoor heated area homes two leather sofas to sink into while enjoying a fruity cider on a summer evening.

A long Georgian oak bar and panelling and restored Victorian furniture retains the pub's period charm.

But the owners also embrace modern technology, offering two electric car charging ports in the car park.

Cider from Aspall and Harvey's ale of Lewes can be sipped alongside a spring country platter of pickled quail eggs, smoked mackerel rillettes, garlic and pepper squid and more.

The Plough at Ivy Hatch

High Cross Road, Ivy Hatch, Sevenoaks

The Plough at Ivy. Picture: Google street view
The Plough at Ivy. Picture: Google street view

Described by owners as "the perfect match between pub and café", The Plough at Ivy Hatch serves breakfast, lunch and dinner alongside a range of craft ales and wines.

An amber piano stands in the corner waiting to be played by any nimble-fingered punters, joined by a chess board and dart board for those who enjoy a game with their pint.

Stocked with vibrant cans of exotic drinks and decked out with stylish, restored furniture the pub reflects the self-styled, dynamic duo who run it, Dale and James.

A "posh fish sandwich", with panko fish, pickled fennel, lettuce and siracha mayonnaise and smoked salmon on toast are a couple of menu highlights.

The Vineyard

The Down, Furnace Lane, Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells

The Vineyard in Lamberhurst. Picture: Google Street View
The Vineyard in Lamberhurst. Picture: Google Street View

Built more than 300 years ago, this pub is next door to one of the country’s oldest vineyards, and so suitably, has a carefully selected wine list.

Stocked with barrels from microbreweries such as Old Dairy, The Vineyard also boasts a huge pub garden, complete with plenty of picnic tables.

Four bedrooms can be rented by those who would like a few glasses with their meal.

The pub offers seared king scallops with spiced apple, wild duck breast with fondant potato and the banana sticky toffee pudding will please any dessert-lover.

The Bottle House Inn

Coldharbour Road, Penshurst, Tonbridge

The Bottle House
The Bottle House

Marked by its aqua glass bottle sign glistening in the sun, in place of the more traditional swinging board, The Bottle House Inn is both quaint and quirky.

Built during the reign of Henry VIII,The Bottle House Inn began life as a simple farm building, and didn't get its licence until1806.

Besides a pub, it has also spent time as a shop, farriers and cobblers through the years.

A refurbishment in 1938 exposed hundreds of bottles, giving the establishment its individual name.

Walls in neutral shades, ancient oak beams restored back to their original appearance and exposed brickwork create a rustic, stylish interior.

The Dering Arms

The Grove, Pluckley, Ashford

The Dering Arms. Picture: Google street view
The Dering Arms. Picture: Google street view

Originally built as a hunting lodge, there’s a touch of Victorian Gothic about this pub, with its creeper-clad stone gables and arched windows.

The wine cellar is packed full of vintage reds and fine champagnes, with staff able to advise on the most palatable pairings.

With bare floorboards, comfy sofas and beams draped in hops, this is a classic country pub.

Drinkers can also choose from a wide selection of Kentish ales and ciders.

A popular destination for seafood lovers, the half a pint of shellon prawns can be followed by grilled skate wing with caper butter or a whole crab salad.

The Chequers Inn

Smarden, Ashford

The Chequers Inn. Picture: Google street view
The Chequers Inn. Picture: Google street view

Nestled in the picturesque village of Smarden, The Chequers Inn is set next to a large, lily-topped pond and overlooks a church.

Hospitable innkeepers, the Spalding Family rent out six historic-styled bedroom chambers above the bar and restaurant.

Ales brewed by Harvey’s, Sharp’s, Fuller’s, Wadworth and the Old Dairy Brewery are served among the low beams.

Seasonal ingredients are sourced locally for the food and a Sunday roast, with all the gravy and trimmings, is served between noon and 5pm.

George & Dragon

Speldhurst Hill, Speldhurst, Tunbridge Wells

George & Dragon. Picture: Google street view
George & Dragon. Picture: Google street view

A large pub with enormous beams and traditional multi-paned windows, the George & Dragon has been in the village for at least 800 years.

The banquet hall caters for private parties, with individual menus designed for every occasion.

Simple dishes using the bounty of produce from the heart of Kent has led to a tasty menu including pan-seared lamb rump and slow-roasted pork belly.

More than 40 wines are on the list alongside Larkin’s bitter, made just three miles away.

Thi is a perfect stop-off after a ramble in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Farm House

High Street, West Malling

The Farm House. Picture: Google street view
The Farm House. Picture: Google street view

This Kentish ragstone pub has been a coaching inn for centuries, but the recent additions of a pizza shack and juice bar have given it a modern twist.

The Farm House has close connections with all its suppliers, with fresh fish coming from Chapmans of Sevenoaks.

Main courses range from octopus and chorizo skewers to spring pea and broad bean gnocchi which is "not only for vegans".

Well-known in the town for their cocktails, the list includes "the ultimate bloody Mary" and a pink grapefruit bramble.

The Bull

Bull Lane, Wrotham, Sevenoaks

The Bull Inn
The Bull Inn

Second World War pilots once relaxed in this 14th century tavern – stamps on the ceiling marking German planes taken down.

Inspired by The United States, The Bull has its very own wood burning smoker, which slowly cooks beef, chicken and other meaty delicacies until moist and tender.

Harvel House chicken, apricot stuffing and Chart Farm sirloin of beef are served every Sunday as part of the roast.

Cigars can be bought in the pub, each with a unique and distinct flavour, to be paired with a whisky or rum.

Guest ales from microbreweries such as Old Dairy are supported by a vast wine list offering 23 by the glass.

Read more: Eat, Drink, Shop

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