Published: 06:00, 10 September 2021
| Updated: 08:06, 16 September 2021
Have you noticed how many roads in Kent are currently closed for roadworks with diversions leading everyone through the back of beyond?
I was still cursing the latest one when it led me to the door of the Blue Anchor in a little place called St Mary’s Platt – for once it seemed I’d been diverted in a decent direction.
There was plenty of advice and information available on the pub's chalkboards, even before you get through the door. I might consider the fancy dress bingo night, but I’m not sure the singles event advertised on the other side would be such a good idea.
However, the details outside are nothing compared to the assault on your senses once you’re across the threshold.
Remember how pubs in the 80s used to be jam-packed with a whole mass of little gems, along with even more tat and a few bits and bobs to boot. Well, this one obviously didn’t get the memo and has gone on collecting non-stop for the last 30 years.
It’s a Greene King house and, encouraged by the barmaid, I chose to try the 4.5% pale ale Ice Breaker. It’s very refreshing, with an absolute stack of fruity flavours, and is an ale I’d definitely return to – even Mrs SD, who insisted grapefruit was the dominant flavour, reckons she might choose it ahead of a white wine next time.
As it happened there wasn’t any Sauvignon Blanc available, so she’d already been far more adaptable than usual by switching to a Pinot Grigio.
Musically the pub is as traditional as its decorations and, after the long version of Meatloaf’s biggest hit, we were treated to a number from Neil Diamond and a tune from The Boss.
There were a few folk eating and the menu looked pretty varied.
I’d already eaten but Mrs SD had missed her tea so decided to order a fish finger sandwich, for the princely sum of £5.95, which came with skinny fries and salad. This was declared very tasty and exactly what she needed – it was as traditional as everything else in the place and an absolute winner.
After one bite of her butty we were joined by Thistle, the working spaniel, who was skating across the wooden floor trying to get a grip with his long claws – so dogs are clearly welcome too.
Once Thistle had departed it was just us, barmaids Michelle and Gina and a couple of guys sat on stools at the bar left in the pub.
There is a dartboard, but no other irritations like fruit machines, jukeboxes or quiz machines to distract from the drinking and the craic, but one regular seemed a tad merry and did repeat himself a few times.
Wisely he decided the pint he was on should be his last and headed into the night to join his wife, who’d arrived to pick him up and had been waiting in the car for 10 minutes or so.
Once our friendly local had departed and we were left alone Michelle and Gina started blowing up balloons for an impromptu party the following day and between all the huffing and puffing the chat flowed again.
They shared a number of fascinating anecdotes about the pub and its history but by far the most astonishing fact they imparted was that their most committed regular had been in since 2pm and in eight hours had managed to sink 13 pints of Guinness.
This is itself remarkable, but when they said he does exactly the self-same thing every single day and occasionally even manages a pint or two more, I was briefly lost for words.
Speechless I headed to the gents, which I can report were well maintained, fresh and sweet smelling. But if you think a visit to the facilities might give you a break from the chalkboard onslaught then you’re very much mistaken.
Mrs SD’s trip to the ladies revealed those were equally well kept, but without all the written material next door.
It’s refreshing to find such a traditional pub hidden away in this village backwater and judging by the look of the place nothing here is going to change anytime soon.
The same goes for the select group of regulars who line the bar on their stools – their loyalty is testament to the high regard in which they hold the place.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and if the price of the pale ale didn’t quite render me speechless, the capacity of the Blue Anchor’s most committed regular to sink Guinness certainly did.
Blue Anchor, Grange Road, St Mary’s Platt, near Borough Green TN15 8ND
Decor: A proper pub packed to the gunnels with a huge range of memorabilia and a vast array of historical knick-knacks – plus more humorous sayings and anecdotes than I have ever seen. *****
Drink: With the exception of her usual tipple, there was a good selection of drinks available and the unfiltered pale ale was excellent, although the price was too steep to justify a second. ****
Food: There was plenty of choice on the menu and, although she chose to play it pretty safe, Mrs SD’s fish finger sandwich, on white bread, was fresh and tasty. ***
Price: A large Pinot Grigio was a reasonable £6.40 and a fish finger sandwich under six quid, but the Ice Breaker was a good deal more expensive at £5.95 a pint, a Moretti will set you back a fiver. **
Staff: Absolute salt of the earth, attentive and helpful, both barmaids were welcoming, chatty and a joy to spend time with. *****