Published: 11:30, 14 August 2020
| Updated: 06:44, 17 August 2020
In a perfect world I’d be in the Caribbean, but I’d settle for somewhere in the Canaries or a little Greek island. I spotted the idyllic blue sea/blue sky shot on social media and it was as if I’d been transported to my perfect holiday location – then, shock horror, I realised it was Ramsgate.
Cramped by Covid regulations, The Ravensgate Arms has come up with an ingenious idea to beat the virus, keep on its staff and flog eight times as much beer as it otherwise would have been able to.
And, to top it all, taking the pub on tour has created a little holiday-feeling for Rammo locals into the bargain.
I’ve popped into the snug little ‘not quite a micro pub’ on King Street a couple of times and liked the atmosphere, but a place for swinging cats it certainly isn’t, so I’m not surprised capacity during Coronavirus was slashed to just a dozen.
Surviving at this level and keeping the staff busy wasn’t an option, so the owners splashed out, not literally, and opened a ‘pop-up’ bar on the edge of the town’s boating lake.
It was mad dogs and Englishmen weather when we arrived so we were fortunate to find a spot where we could shift our deckchairs and upturned beer barrels into the shade of a gazebo.
The whole place has a bit of a festival feel to it with folks sitting on the grass enjoying a drink, a multitude of mutts messing about and kids playing happily on the banks behind the chairs.
The bins are made from old water coolers, as are some of the tables. This recycling, along with a multitude of floral print dresses and the odd older fella wearing a floppy hat, all add to the trendy festival vibe.
But, unlike any festival I’ve been to, there wasn’t a ridiculously long queue for the bar and the most we faced was a few minutes wait to get a round in.
Mind you, despite distancing sensibly and sticking to all the rules, we were asked to queue right back against the building by a slightly over-officious waitress.
In fact, everyone we saw was making sure they followed all the advice and kept everyone safe.
We munched away on a variety of different flavoured crisps and nuts, which were okay, but there’s no doubt what this place is missing – some good grub. Seriously, anyone who sets up a half decent burger van or a pizza wagon on the road just above the place would make a killing. I’m not sure of the rules, but it’s where I’d be heading if I had a fish ‘n’ chip van.
A number of folk sitting in the sunshine were confirmed Ravensgate Arms regulars and it’s clear to see the attraction of this outdoor alternative, particularly at the current time.
And, as far as the owners are concerned, increasing capacity to a point where they can cater for 80 thirsty drinkers, rather than 12 in the pub, is a no-brainer.
There were still several heavily-bearded, reasonably heavy-bellied, fellows who’d look more at home sitting in real ale pubs but there were also a large number of families taking advantage of the alternative venue.
The youngest punter I met was Finn, an incredibly cheerful and engaging baby who was only too happy to sit on the grass while his dad enjoyed a pint. In different times I’d have been delighted to entertain him myself and share a few chuckles.
My drinking friends reckoned there is something about the place which reminded them of a camping holiday at Butlin’s, but the view and the heat still felt more continental than Skeggie to me.
The other great thing I noticed was that groups of folk were choosing to speak to other groups in a way I haven’t noticed in other pubs since re-opening after coronavirus – it was still done safely, but was certainly refreshing to witness.
One element which is definitely not festival-like is the toilets: they were clean, fresh and superbly presented – they looked as if they’d been done up specially for our visit.
This wonderful pop-up venue is open from noon until 10pm at weekends and from noon until 8pm midweek. By all accounts it has been incredibly well supported since the day it opened – you should try it.
The Ravensgate Arms (pop-up) – Royal Esplanade, Ramsgate CT11 0HE
The original pub – 56-58 King Street, Ramsgate CT11 8NY
Decor: *** Chilled out and relaxed with deckchairs and recycled water coolers, we were pleased to escape the stifling heat under one of the weighted-down gazebos.
Drink: *** Unsurprisingly, given who owns this one, most of the drinks on offer are brews by Gadds.
Price: *** We had a round of three pints of lager, a £6 cocktail and two packets of crisps for just a tad over £21.
Atmosphere: **** I loved the fact this is the first place I’ve been since lockdown where people were actually keen to talk to each other. Everyone was being sensible but was also chirpy and upbeat.
Staff: ** The barman was efficient and friendly but, although we were socially-distancing and following the rules, one waitress was over officious, a same really. Be aware, you are expected to queue right next to the building, even though the chalked instructions on the floor have worn away.