Published: 06:00, 11 June 2021
They say never go back, never revisit the scene of the crime – but they also say never say never.
So I found myself sitting in exactly the same seat at the Royal Hotel which I first visited in December 2019. (If you want to take a look at the review - it's right here)
Last time I was in, the barmaid recommended Wetherspoon round the corner would serve a better pint, but this Sheerness boozer is now under new management.
This time it was table service only and our diminutive barmaid was quickly at our side to explain it was strictly cash only and to ask what we’d like?
The full drinks menu is laminated on a series of cards at your table and we kicked off with a pint of Moretti and a Whitstable Bay for just £5.45 the pair.
Just like last week’s pub - the Jolly Caulkers in Chatham - there were beermats on the table, the barmaid was picking the tunes on the jukebox and there was a good deal of hi-vis clothing on show.
Unlike last week’s pub though, a boozer steeped in tradition which hasn’t changed for decades, this is a pub in transition. And, like all things in transition, there is bound to be an element of confusion – in this case the transitioning is going on behind a sheet draped behind the bar, but more of that later.
First, let’s get one thing sorted. I’ve got nothing against the hard-working folk required to wear safety gear for their jobs, or the fact they rightly deserve to pop in for a pint after putting in a shift and keep their orange shirt or trousers on. But, why on a hot evening, would three people, two of whom were women, choose to sit there still sporting hi-vis vests?
The bar has been completely made over, inside and out, since I last visited and, with its bright blue upholstery, it’s definitely been improved.
In fact, the new owner was sat in the bar holding business meetings while the apprentice SD and I were in. Our barmaid Rae said she’d been on her best behaviour all day and so far was proud of the fact she hadn’t let a single swear word slip.
Along with the renovations, there has been a marked improvement in the atmosphere at the Royal Hotel and the fact food is no longer being served is another massive step in the right direction – instead of the inedible sandwich we were served previously, the apprentice and I settled for a packet of crisps each.
The gents can still be found on the right hand side, just behind the bar and there’s a sign to tell you they are behind the sheet but mind the step.
Last time the plastic walls had holes punched in them, this time the plastic walls were intact and whilst there’s still plenty of work to be done, they were clean and fresh. The transitioning ladies have had a good clear out but there’s obviously a lot of work still to do here too. Elsewhere there’s plenty of evidence the builders are very much still on site.
When I got back to the bar the apprentice informed me I’d missed all the excitement as a schoolgirl had run through the open door to steal one of the free masks.
The pub might still be mid-way through its transition but I’m pleased to be able to report a marked improvement from the last time I was in.
Okay, the ladies toilet isn’t open yet, the smoke wafts in through the open door and the owner nips into the disabled toilet rather than walking behind the sheet with his regulars, but the Royal Hotel has come on in leaps and bounds.
Finally, special mention must go to chatty local Nathan, known as Nev, who was like a breath of fresh air and helped remind the apprentice and me what we’ve really missed about pubs during lockdown – the chance to bump into and share a few words with interesting folk.
And, this thoroughly decent gent also bought us both a drink. Yes, this Royal re-visit was definitely a good idea.
The Royal Hotel, 21 the Broadway, Sheerness ME12 1AB
Decor: It’s in transition and the builders are still in situ, but many of the worst horrors have been removed and the bar has been improved beyond recognition. ***
Drink: Previously there was no beer at all so having Master Brew available is at least a step in the right direction. The lager and Guinness were both fine - I’m not sure I’d re-visit the Dark Fruit. **
Price: A pint of Whitstable Bay was just £2.25 – strangely if you buy two halves it works out even cheaper! Guinness is £3.10. *****
Staff: Compared to our previous hostess barmaid Rae was efficient and friendly, definitely a big improvement on our last visit. ****