You can’t beat the excitement of setting off down a previously untraveled winding Kent lane in the hope of discovering a gem of a pub.
The marvellously named Plumpudding Lane looked a perfect example and when The Dove hoved into view I was convinced my haphazard method of discovering new drinking holes had paid dividends again.
Imagine then, my disappointment at a notice in the window which read: “Unfortunately, Covid has finally hit us after 2.5 years avoiding it. We will be closed all weekend and will reopen hopefully next week, sorry for any inconvenience caused. Soph and Will x."
So, back into the lane I headed out of Dargate towards another small rural settlement by the name of Hernhill.
After last week’s experience of a modern-day pub with just a few years under its belt, I was reassured to see The Red Lion has been welcoming thirsty travellers for more than six centuries – on that basis they should have had plenty of practice.
There was a set of stocks outside and, whilst she laughed at the suggestion, Mrs SD wasn’t prepared to pose for a pic despite my promises not to leave her there.
There was a lively set of fellows enjoying themselves enormously at a large table on the left-hand side of the pub and they’d not only been in for a while, but had also sampled a fair variety of drinks.
In fact, their mood was so buoyant a lady sitting on the stairs listening to them roused herself and came over to issue us with a foul language warning.
Since finishing their shifts on site she said they got through several pornstar martinis and had been effing and jeffing ever since. She suggested if we were easily offended we might like to sit further away – we made it clear we weren’t shrinking violets and she returned to her seat.
Being a gentleman, I left Mrs SD to the four-letter stuff and headed to the bar. The barmaid certainly wasn’t anywhere near as foul-mouthed, in fact, she said very little at all. Maybe she just got out of bed the wrong side, but if there was a surliest bartender award she’d be a strong contender.
I went for IPA from the E1 Brewery and ‘er indoors stuck to form with a large Sav Blanc. The pair set me back £13.50 and, whilst mine wasn’t cheap, it was the wine which really tested the wallet. However, according to the oracle on the other side of the table it was money well spent as this was the best wine ever sampled in a public house.
There are no machines of any sort, no pool, no darts and certainly no jukebox, although there was some music playing, fairly softly, mainly tunes dating back to the 60s and 70s.
But over The Eagles’ Hotel California I bizarrely heard a familiar voice and peering round the corner my suspicion was confirmed – my electrician was part of the gang of cocktail-supping contractors. Whether he’s from this neck of the woods I’m not sure but if you need a decent sparky then Jack could be your man.
Quieter than the others, he kept a low profile and left the rabble rousing to Aaron, who was busy explaining why he wore Speedo armbands to take an early morning shower in a client’s bathroom.
There wasn’t, in my opinion, a great selection of beers but I shifted to a pint of Harvey’s Sussex Best, which was excellent, while she stuck to the wine and challenging my wallet!
The place went very quiet at 9.30 when the noisy gang left and I wasn’t sure why they’d departed so early but then realised – they’re locals and know the Red Lion shuts up shop at 10 sharp with the sullen barmaid, supported by a couple of young waitresses, doing all she can to have stragglers out on time.
There was a mop slanted across the open door of the gents by 9.45 but the barmaid begrudgingly said I could use the facilities as long as I didn’t break my neck. Mrs SD received the same warning to beware the slippery floor in the ladies.
The lions and lionesses were decorated identically and, with nowhere in the rest of this listed building to introduce the popular green/grey paint on tongue and groove (that seems to lead to higher prices), the toilets have this colour around the traditional sink and urinals. Even the bottles of bleach under the sinks match in the ladies and gents.
With so much to recommend this striking, historic Kent free house, complete with fireplaces, stools at the bar and a decent-sized pub garden, it’s a shame it falls down in a couple of areas. There may be good reasons for an early curfew in a quiet village, but having unsmiling, unresponsive bar staff getting jumpy and fretful 15 minutes before closing time isn’t a good policy.
The Red Lion, Crockham Lane, Hernhill, Faversham ME13 9TU
Decor: The quintessential British pub, heavily beamed inside and out, stools around the bar and a cheery warm glow emanating from small panelled windows after dark. On top of this perfection it’s sensitively decorated and furnished. *****
Drink: The Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc was declared the best she’d ever sampled in a pub so high praise indeed. And, whilst the IPA was okay, the Harvey’s Sussex Best was an excellent pint of bitter. ****
Price: The E1 IPA and the Harvey’s Best were a fiver each, which is obviously a little steep this deep into Kent. It might have been NZ Marlborough, but £8.50 for a glass of vino is more than a little hefty. **
Staff: I’d like to be able to award a higher score here, but from minute one until she ushered us out the barmaid lived up to Mrs SD’s label of ‘sourpuss’. She was happy chatting with colleagues but largely ignored customers. *
Catch up on all Secret Drinker's Kent pub reviews here
Click here to follow Secret Drinker on Twitter
Want more Secret Drinker? Sign up here for his new monthly newsletter