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Secret Drinker reviews Shepherd Neame's the Sun Inn, Faversham


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The Sun can trace its history back more than six centuries but in recent years the Faversham inn has expanded considerably – and a waitress, with tongue in cheek, even proclaimed: "We’re gradually taking over the world, well this side of the street anyway."

I last visited this Shepherd Neame pub in West Street 20 years ago, so I was interested to see how it might have changed?

It might currently be covered in scaffolding, but it’s only getting a fresh lick of paint and underneath the Sun Inn is exactly the way I remember it from 20 years ago
It might currently be covered in scaffolding, but it’s only getting a fresh lick of paint and underneath the Sun Inn is exactly the way I remember it from 20 years ago

Walking down the street from the bustling Friday market, my first challenge was spotting the place.

I thought I remembered where it was, vaguely at least, but couldn’t see it.

Then I realised why, it’s currently covered in scaffolding, but when I got closer I was pleased to see under this temporary skin the place looks just the same.

And, walking through the door it was exactly the same old fashioned, inviting and fascinating bar I first enjoyed a couple of decades ago.

However, if you turn left, right or walk on through to the back of the pub you quickly realise, that while the heart of the place remains unchanged, The Sun has expanded in every direction possible.

The main, central bar hasn’t changed for many, many years and still looks fantastic – long may it remain so
The main, central bar hasn’t changed for many, many years and still looks fantastic – long may it remain so
To the right hand side the pub has created a large, relatively light and airy restaurant after taking over the hairdressers and bookies next door
To the right hand side the pub has created a large, relatively light and airy restaurant after taking over the hairdressers and bookies next door

The waitress’ quip about taking over the street is no joke.

To the right it has pushed through not only a hairdresser's salon but also a bookies, to the left a cheese shop and an old newspaper office.

At the back it has taken over a neighbouring house completely and with all this extra space has created 12 rooms for bed and breakfast.

It has also created an impressive outdoor space and a huge restaurant area.

The place was still busy enough and buzzing when I was in mid-afternoon but apparently it had been packed at lunchtime.

This room, to the left hand side of the original pub, is the latest extension and previously used to be a newspaper office
This room, to the left hand side of the original pub, is the latest extension and previously used to be a newspaper office

I accepted the barman’s recommendation of a triple hopped Bear Island lager and chose a wing chair by the fireplace, not least because it reminded me of a Fast Show character. And, the last time I was here I was very, very drunk!

But, while it retains all its old-fashioned charm and respects its history, there is nothing snobbish or uppity about this one. There are no darts or pool and the music is played so gently in the background it’s hardly noticeable.

Paying at the bar I dropped my wallet and quick as a flash someone behind me shouted ‘scramble’ – something I haven’t heard since the playground.

I found this great old leather wing-backed armchair too comfortable to resist and it immediately reminded me of a ruddy-faced Fast Show character
I found this great old leather wing-backed armchair too comfortable to resist and it immediately reminded me of a ruddy-faced Fast Show character

I immediately struck up a conversation with my new best mate – incidentally the nicest person from Sheppey I’ve ever met.

We shared a few stories while I bought a second pint, this time I tried the Spitfire lager, and he told me that in the 20 years since he moved to Faversham he hasn’t found a better pub than this one.

I took a few moments to explore the new extended garden area and was impressed by both the quality of the improvements and the outside space in general.

A large, new patio area, to the back and right hand side of the pub, is mainly under an extensive canvas cover
A large, new patio area, to the back and right hand side of the pub, is mainly under an extensive canvas cover

It was also good to spot a couple of items of hi-vis clothing – this definitely hasn’t become one of those trendy pubs with ideas above its station.

I should also say The Spitfire runs the Bear Island so close I don’t think I’d bother spending the extra 50p again.

Back indoors I made two more friends, first hairy hound Bella curled up at my feet and then owner Dave swiftly talked me through the highlights of his 50 years in Faversham and explained why, following a decent walk, Bella’s happy to escort him to the pub.

Dogs are very welcome in the bar, but not in the restaurant.

Bella is a regular visitor to the Sun and was more than happy to take up a position at my feet, though her owner says she only prepared to venture in after being taken for a decent walk
Bella is a regular visitor to the Sun and was more than happy to take up a position at my feet, though her owner says she only prepared to venture in after being taken for a decent walk

There is a fruit machine and a quiz machine but, like the music, they’re not allowed to dominate.

I was impressed by the way the pub has developed its new areas and made the most of the extra space it has inherited. The gents is about the only part of the pub which hasn’t been extended but it’s still been massively improved – the old sloping, slippery concrete floor is long gone.

There is a theory you should never look back, but I thoroughly enjoyed retracing my steps through this fantastic inn and made three new friends into the bargain.

The toilets have definitely undergone a full renovation since I last visited. I recall them being chilly with an slippery, sloping concrete floor. They are now superbly presented and impeccably maintained.
The toilets have definitely undergone a full renovation since I last visited. I recall them being chilly with an slippery, sloping concrete floor. They are now superbly presented and impeccably maintained.

And, given the traffic nightmare we experienced on the way out of Faversham, it’s a good job I enjoyed revisiting The Sun or we might have been left cursing my decision to even venture off the main road.

Seriously, the whole town centre has been brought to a completely miserable standstill by a single set of temporary traffic lights on the A2.

This really isn’t the platform to question the level of new housing developments being granted across Kent but this is gridlock on a totally different scale.

I tried the triple hopped Bear Island lager first and then a Spitfire - I have to be frank and say this second lager was good and it’s difficult to justify the extra expense of a Bear Island
I tried the triple hopped Bear Island lager first and then a Spitfire - I have to be frank and say this second lager was good and it’s difficult to justify the extra expense of a Bear Island

Sun Inn,10 West Street, Faversham ME13 7JE

Decor: I was delighted to find the main bar was exactly the same old fashioned, fascinating place I remembered from my previous visit. And all the additional areas are decorated in-keeping and to a very high standard. *****

Drink: It’s the staple selection from the Shepherd Neame stable, but the rest of the bar looked well stocked so if you do decide to go off-piste there’s plenty of choice. ***

Price: A pint of lager is under a fiver, but not by much. The Bear Island variety, with its triple hopping, was £4.90, while the Spitfire was a little cheaper at £4.45. ***

Staff: There were plenty of staff on duty and everyone was very friendly and efficient. They were even happy to share what they knew about the recent history of the pub. ****

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The view of the street outside is currently blocked by the full-scale scaffolding but hopefully it will all be taken down before too long
The view of the street outside is currently blocked by the full-scale scaffolding but hopefully it will all be taken down before too long
At the back of the pub there is a large outdoor area with covered seating to the left (complete with heaters) and picnic tables to the right. NB. Eagle-eyed readers will spot the hi-vis trousers making an entrance.
At the back of the pub there is a large outdoor area with covered seating to the left (complete with heaters) and picnic tables to the right. NB. Eagle-eyed readers will spot the hi-vis trousers making an entrance.
The Sun has none of its charm in the last 20 years
The Sun has none of its charm in the last 20 years
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