Published: 06:00, 30 July 2021
| Updated: 10:26, 11 August 2021
BOGOF – usually the sign of a good deal, but when the first Gravesend pub I tried displayed a notice on the door saying ‘regulars only’ I was getting an alternative meaning.
Undeterred I ignored this initial greeting and having got through the door of The George was determined to give this Queen Street boozer a fair chance.
Despite almost falling A over T in her efforts to serve me barmaid Joan offered a bright enough welcome and joked that she hadn’t touched a drop as yet.
This, however, was by far the brightest moment of what proved to be an incredibly dull visit.
I ordered a Doom Bar which I thought Joan said was £3.60, though she charged me £3.75 and my request for a receipt fell on deaf ears.
At one point a long-haired local, who introduced himself as Cheeky Man (I’ve no idea why?), wandered in for a pint and widely praised the quality of his hearing aids before going on endlessly about the cost of repairing his car.
The pub’s got two dartboards, a pool table, a jukebox, several TV screens (not switched on), a fruit machine and a quiz machine.
And, there was a four-strong card school in one corner led by landlady Gail. Everyone knows everyone and a larger percentage than you might expect are related.
Definitely a place where the regulars feel far more comfortable than visitors so I headed elsewhere in town – perhaps I should have taken more notice of the sign on the door.
After a quick stroll I discovered a colourful, bright looking pub called TJ’s on Milton Road with two doors wide open and the sound of lively music and laughter spilling out.
Stepping in instantly felt a world apart from the other pub just a few hundred yards away. For one thing I was immediately greeted by a chap called Tom who asked how I was doing and wished me well.
Clearly another pub held in high regard by its regulars, but the big difference here is visitors are also warmly welcomed.
Working incredibly hard behind the bar and clearly the person who makes the whole bar tick, Iris somehow still manages to find time to make sure everyone enjoys their time at TJ’s.
It didn’t take too long to spot the dynamic between Thomas Joseph sitting at a table in the front of the bar and his wife pulling the pints.
But, even the key roles of host and hard working barmaid played by these two doesn’t secure them star billing.
That honour must go to heavily pregnant Tara who features in half a dozen pub portraits and lays around exactly where she chooses. There will be more than a few celebratory pints sunk in TJ’s the day this particular red and white Irish Setter delivers her litter.
There were a couple of beers on draft and I selected a pint of Tribute for £3.60 – beautifully poured and presented, it was an excellent drop.
There is a jukebox on the wall and a good mix of music playing at the decent level but I’m not sure the tunes were being selected by the locals.
There was also a TV screen showing the final of the darts but it was switched to silent and wasn’t allowed to dominate – the pub is all about local folk getting together and socialising.
At this point a few punters had drunk up and left and Iris, who hails from Waterford, found she had a few moments to spare and proudly showed me the pub’s fully renovated function room at the back, complete with a raised stage for live bands.
She also pointed out a number of great photos and pictures hung on the pub walls which carefully document the history of this great Gravesend pub.
Most impressive was the full list of landlords who’ve taken charge of the British Tar, as the pub was previously known, for the last 200 years, with Thomas J O’Keeffe taking up the reins in 2005.
Both Tom and Iris are working hard to ensure this pub stays at the top of its game and were happy to share their plans to develop it still further – I certainly wouldn’t bet against them becoming the longest serving landlord and landlady at this smashing local.
The George Inn, Queen Street, Gravesend DA12 2EE
Decor: In some ways it’s quite refreshing to visit a pub where they haven’t spent every moment of lockdown stripping the place back and completely redecorating. **
Drink: Not a great deal of choice but the popular amber ale from Cornish brewer Sharp was decent enough. ***
Price: I was charged £3.75 for a pint of Doom Bar although I’m sure Joan said it should have been £3.60. ***
Staff: Joan was pleasant enough but there’s no disguising the fact this is a pub which prides itself on prioritising its regulars. ***
TJ’s, 15 Milton Road, Gravesend DA12 2RF
Decor: Tastefully decorated with plenty of nods to the pub’s proud history, the bar is carefully maintained. No one could deny the effort that’s gone into renovating the function room. *****
Drink: A couple of real ales were on tap the day I was in and The Tribute was well kept and perfectly poured. ****
Price: I selected The Tribute, which was just £3.60 a pint and everything else is similarly well priced. ***
Staff: Proudly protecting the history of this great old pub, Thomas and Iris are the perfect couple to run this town centre bar. The friendly, welcoming atmosphere is a direct result of their passion for the place. *****