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Secret Drinker reviews the King Ethelbert pub at Reculver, near Herne Bay


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I’ve often caught sight of the towers on the skyline from the A299 just beyond Herne Bay but never previously had the time, matched with the inclination, to take a closer look.

A narrow lane, signposted to Reculver, quickly had us at the ocean’s edge and having secured a parking spot we briefly enjoyed the view of some hefty looking sea defences and a couple of beaches in the distance.

The King Ethelbert sits right on the roadside in Reculver, you can’t drive too far beyond the pub or you’ll end up in the briny
The King Ethelbert sits right on the roadside in Reculver, you can’t drive too far beyond the pub or you’ll end up in the briny

I would have wandered the few hundred yards for a closer inspection of the 12th century towers but had already spotted the King Ethelbert Inn occupying a spot right on the boundary of where the old Roman fort would have stood. The pub, being a shorter distance away and, unlike the towers, serving beer, won the day.

I was reminded of a joke as I walked in, you know, the one where someone says: ‘This must be a brilliant place, after all thousands of flies can’t all be wrong’.

To be fair there were really only a few dozen but they did seem to be buzzing around in a holding pattern right in the centre of the bar – though once you got beyond them they didn’t really cause any issues and are, I’m sure, just a side effect of having all the doors open on a rare warm summer evening.

Reculver Towers are just a short walk from the pub, which is situated right on the boundary of the old Roman fort
Reculver Towers are just a short walk from the pub, which is situated right on the boundary of the old Roman fort

And, talking of rare, I don’t often walk into a pub these days and immediately bring the average age down.

Although it doesn’t actually sit on a caravan park it is surrounded by a number of sites housing mobile homes and, without being ageist in any way, these are largely occupied by greyer-haired folk who no longer need to work.

It therefore feels as if you’ve stepped into one of those clubs which exist to entertain people staying at a holiday park.

I’m not sure what goes on in this patriotic little building, but it was closed when we were in
I’m not sure what goes on in this patriotic little building, but it was closed when we were in
Old beer pump clips are not discarded when they’re finished with, instead they are turned into ceiling decorations
Old beer pump clips are not discarded when they’re finished with, instead they are turned into ceiling decorations

Sticking with the theme of rollicking good fun and a party atmosphere I chose a pint of the Cornish ale, Betty Stogs, and thinking what fun Betty must have been, ordered up Mrs SD’s usual Sav Blanc.

We sat at a table with a reserved sign but didn’t trouble ourselves too much as every table had the same sign displayed and there were stacks free.

Fellows at the two tables closest to us were engaged in a heavy and healthy debate about the number of so-called refugees landing illegally on Kent’s shores and how the issue should be tackled – solutions suggested were varied and ‘imaginative’.

Proudly proclaiming itself as a free house, the King Ethelbert’s pub sign pays tribute to the Saxon king of Kent
Proudly proclaiming itself as a free house, the King Ethelbert’s pub sign pays tribute to the Saxon king of Kent
Inside the majority of the pub is set out for diners and although it was early evening, it started to fill up quite quickly
Inside the majority of the pub is set out for diners and although it was early evening, it started to fill up quite quickly
Hung on the wall in the bar, this poster lists the Inn-Signia of Whitbread pubs right across East Kent
Hung on the wall in the bar, this poster lists the Inn-Signia of Whitbread pubs right across East Kent

Having surveyed the menu we decided to try a sausage and onion baguette and an omelette but as the weather was so good we chose to dine al fresco, there were also less flies outside.

Our order was taken promptly and as I was moving to the open air I took the opportunity to shift to lager and a pint of faithful Kronie.

I should say at this point our barman Connor was obviously new to the task and was learning on the job. He was, nevertheless, attentive, cheery, eager to please and armed with a ‘can-do’ attitude – I’m sure he’ll prove a valuable asset in no time.

The menu from the King Ethelbert Inn, Reculver
The menu from the King Ethelbert Inn, Reculver

By comparison his efficient and effective instructor, the main man behind the bar, appeared a little on the dour side.

There is a good-sized decking area at the front of the pub with plenty of seating and with tables and chairs spread out on the far side of the cycle track. It’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t get a seat even at the height of the summer season.

Right on the Viking Trail, several two-wheel enthusiasts had arrived in the saddle and chose this as the perfect spot to rest their weary limbs and take on refreshment.

Served with salad and chips, I opted for an omelette with cheese, ham and mushroom – it’s on the menu at £8.50
Served with salad and chips, I opted for an omelette with cheese, ham and mushroom – it’s on the menu at £8.50
The main dishes, vegetarian options and sides are all listed on the reverse of the menu, as well as a line warning food may take up to 30 minutes – although ours arrived well ahead of this deadline
The main dishes, vegetarian options and sides are all listed on the reverse of the menu, as well as a line warning food may take up to 30 minutes – although ours arrived well ahead of this deadline

There were also a good number of dog walkers in and the furriest and liveliest hairball, a Tibetan Terrier called Harpo, was on the table next to us.

He, like me, had already had a proper summer haircut.

The food, ordered on a ticket number system, arrived promptly and was darned decent pub grub, if anything the baguette was slightly cooler than the rest of the food but otherwise very good.

Let me introduce you to Harpo, the Tibetan Terrier. Believe it or not, this is a short haircut for him
Let me introduce you to Harpo, the Tibetan Terrier. Believe it or not, this is a short haircut for him
The view from the other side of the track – just over the green and beyond the car park, the walkway runs right along the seafront
The view from the other side of the track – just over the green and beyond the car park, the walkway runs right along the seafront

There’s even an extensive garden with stacks more seating, though numbers didn’t warrant it when we were in and it was closed.

Special mention must go to the carpeted lobby area leading to the gents which is equipped with a chair. I have absolutely no idea who would take a seat here at the door of the gents?

As traditional as it’s possible to be, the King Ethelbert is a good venue to finish a dog walk along the coast or as a pleasant refreshment stop for cyclists taking on the Viking Trail.

This small carpeted corridor between the main pub and the toilet door features a chair but I can’t believe it is ever used, other than as a storage point for extra loo rolls
This small carpeted corridor between the main pub and the toilet door features a chair but I can’t believe it is ever used, other than as a storage point for extra loo rolls
The gents, with white tiles from floor to ceiling, were well maintained and very clean
The gents, with white tiles from floor to ceiling, were well maintained and very clean

King Ethelbert Inn, Reculver, Herne Bay CT6 6SU

Decor: Very traditional with most areas set aside for diners, the pub walls and beams are decorated with a variety of interesting pictures and memorabilia from yesteryear. **

Drink: Mrs SD said the wine was extremely good for the price and she could recommend it. Both the bitter and lager were well kept and well served (outside it’s strictly plastic glasses only). ***

The covered decking area at the front of the pub has plenty of seating and is popular with visitors on warmer days
The covered decking area at the front of the pub has plenty of seating and is popular with visitors on warmer days

Price: The Betty cost £4.30 and a pint of Kronenbourg is 40p more expensive. A large Sauvignon Blanc was £5.55. An omelette with three fillings was £8.50 and a sausage baguette £5.50. ***

Food: Traditional pub grub served in decent quantities. The order arrived in good time and everything was fresh and tasty. ***

Staff: The young fellow was clearly learning his trade and making a very decent effort, his boss hasn’t yet managed to teach him not to smile. **

There is an extensive garden with even more seating beyond the Viking Trail track which runs right past the pub
There is an extensive garden with even more seating beyond the Viking Trail track which runs right past the pub

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