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We review one of Kent’s most family-friendly pubs – The Waggon at Hale in Chatham

Taking my two kids out for food usually involves a trip to McDonald's. Going with them to a pub or a restaurant is pretty pointless as you don't get to relax at all; they moan they are bored, fidget at the table and ask to play games on my phone.

But The Waggon at Hale in Chatham sounded like it had plenty to keep them entertained. This independent family-run pub has not only got the usual play area, it also has farm animals in the garden.

The family-friendly Waggon at Hale has been decorated for Halloween
The family-friendly Waggon at Hale has been decorated for Halloween

When we arrived on a chilly Sunday afternoon, the pub was decked out with decorations for Halloween so it was an instant hit with my kids. Outside the entrance was a whole fake graveyard with headstones and skeleton spiders. There were skeletons climbing all over the front of the pub and a zombie hanging from one of the windows.

Inside there was plenty more Halloween decor and a few scary-looking figures in the bar (not the locals) and the pub was packed. There is a small bar area as you go in, a dining area to one side and a bar/dining area on the other side which is dog-friendly.

We were seated in the dining area and didn’t have the best table as it was at the back next to the serving area but kids don’t care about these things and my two didn’t even notice – they were too busy looking at the witches hats hanging from the ceiling and the ghouls adorning the walls.

The dog-friendly side of the pub – which looked nicer than the other dining area
The dog-friendly side of the pub – which looked nicer than the other dining area

The staff were all friendly, quick to see if you wanted anything, and made an effort with my very chatty five-year-old.

As it was Sunday the pub had two menus and there was loads to choose from. The usual menu featured pub classics from £10 like scampi and chips, pie and mash, burgers and lasagne. It also featured baked salmon, Thai curry, BBQ ribs, steaks, pasta, pizzas and fajitas.

The Sunday menu offered a choice of different roasts – chicken, beef, lamb, gammon or vegetarian.

The roast beef was lovely
The roast beef was lovely

There was also a really good choice of starters including coconut prawns, salt and pepper squid and brie wedges, as well as some sharing platters.

We don’t usually go for starters – it’s best to go straight for the main meal when you have little mouths to feed – but opted to share a ciabatta with dipping oils as something to keep the kids going until the main courses arrived.

After we ordered we went outside to explore, where we found chickens, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs and a very friendly pig.

The play area has swings, monkey bars, a climbing frame and a slide.

The play area
The play area

After meeting the animals and a brief play on the swings we headed back inside to eat our first course and then it wasn’t long to wait for the main meals.

I had opted for the roast beef (£15) and it was lovely. There was a big portion of meat with all the trimmings – roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing and veg. The beef was cooked well and apart from the runner beans being a bit cold, everything else tasted good.

The only criticism was there wasn't enough gravy on the plate but after spotting the waitress delivering a gravy boat to another table, we asked for some more and she was quick to bring it over.

Sausage and chips on the children’s menu
Sausage and chips on the children’s menu

My son opted for sausages and chips (£5). He got two sausages that looked a lot nicer than some you get with kids’ meals and a big pile of French fries.

My little one ordered mac and cheese (also £5). Mac and cheese is her absolute favourite dinner and she probably eats it once a week. So was this one going to live up to her high standards? I was pleased to see it wasn’t something that had been pinging in a microwave. It came in a little dish that has been baked in the oven with two big chunks of garlic bread on the side. She said it was yummy and polished off the whole lot.

They also offer a kids’ box which includes a sandwich, crisps and drink for £5, and a choice of sandwiches and salads for adults.

The mac and cheese was a hit
The mac and cheese was a hit

For four-legged guests there is even a doggy menu with a canine-friendly roast dinner, fish and chips, beer and ice cream.

After dinner we went outside again to see the animals. My daughter stopped along the way to look at all the Halloween decorations and shake hands with the spooky figures in the bar.

My son meanwhile thought the pig outside was brilliant as he came running up to the fence as soon as you stepped near his pen.

Then it was back inside for dessert. The menu offers a range of puddings – with both children’s and adult’s portions.

Both my children had cookie dough. This was £3 and came with a big dollop of ice cream and chocolate sauce. Needless to say they ate it all.

Cookie dough and ice-cream for pudding
Cookie dough and ice-cream for pudding

I had the cheesecake (£6). You got a huge slice with ice cream on the side and it tasted really good.

The pub offers good deals on mid-week meals – three courses for £20 – and has other family-friendly offers such as two mid-week meals for £15, half-price burgers on Tuesdays and half-price pizzas on Wednesdays.

As we paid our bill, we also bought a bag of animal food for £1 and then headed outside again. We were able to spend another 20 minutes feeding the animals – and if it hadn’t been so chilly we would have stayed longer and had a drink in the garden while the kids played.

You can feed the animals in the garden
You can feed the animals in the garden

If you want to eat out over half-term and enjoy some good food, while also keeping your children happy, this is definitely the place to go. In fact, my son didn’t want to leave (I think he would have quite liked to take the pig home!)

The pub is not far from Capstone Country Park. To find out more, visit the pub’s website.

It is hosting a family Halloween party from 3pm on Saturday, October 28 with a children’s entertainer, games, face-painting, DJ, BBQ and fancy dress.

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