It must be getting on for 10 years ago that I sold my old dining chairs on eBay and a very nice chap, who was doing up The Cricketers at the time, left me a lovely message.
When the pub reopened, just for fun, I popped into Meopham and visited the latest addition to the Whiting and Hammond business empire so I could sit on my old chairs.
So, all these years on, I decided it was high time I returned to this family-friendly Wrotham Road boozer which sits right on the village green – hence the name.
But, even before I pulled into the car park I noticed the Kings Arms, sitting just across the road, looked dark and uninviting.
A quick check on its website revealed a single line: ‘Unfortunately the Kings Arms restaurant is closed, this is something that was out of our control. Sorry for any inconvenience.’
Whether it’s due to this ‘uncontrolled closure’ isn’t clear, but I can tell you that, for a weekday lunchtime, The Cricketers was heaving by 1.30pm.
There was hardly an empty table and the place was bustling with a whole mix of different folk. There were tables full of chattering kids with mums and dads happy that their offspring were amusing themselves, the grey brigade was also well represented and there were several drinkers enjoying an extended lunch away from the office.
This, combined with the open fires, a cheery welcome from the chappy behind the bar and getting in out of the rain left me with a lovely warm feeling this would be a great pub visit.
Mrs SD and I slotted ourselves into a nice little two-seater table and chatted about the last decade – there was certainly no chance to check if our dining chairs has survived, the place was far too busy for that.
To keep my fans of ‘real beer’ happy, I made a start with a pint of Bexley’s Own Beer, a pale ale clocking in at 4.2%, which could hardly be more local. An easy drinking, smooth ale, it has a balanced flavour without being overpowering. Probably not one to stop you in your tracks, but certainly not one to avoid.
There were a number of young waitresses on duty and we got our food order for a ham and cheese toastie and starter-sized chicken caesar salad in early as well as ordering more drinks.
This done, I took stock of our surroundings. There are roaring open fires in each room and they are set up a bit higher in the walls, which I particularly like. There also seemed to be a cute dog competition taking place as there was an attractive furry friend lying obediently under most tables – another big plus in my book.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the pub is set out for dining, but a decent bar-style area has been retained on the right hand side. It was far too wet for anything but the most ardent of smokers to venture outside, but there was a decent-sized, lovely looking patio area at the back.
The toilets are found at the top of an attractively tapering staircase which is lit by an unusual wine glass chandelier. I also liked the fact they had taken the trouble to light the wine store.
The toilets had recently been cleaned and were well presented and fresh – you’ll find a great view of the green on your way out.
By now the food had arrived and the pressure of a busy service was beginning to tell on the waiting staff, as demonstrated when Mrs SD politely requested a little parmesan cheese for her caesar salad.
The first waitress ignored her, the second said she had never heard of parmesan, but did return to say the kitchen didn’t have any.
Five minutes later she was back again and plonked a pot of parmesan on the table without saying a word and scurrying away.
The cheese debacle was unfortunate as, other than this, the food, whilst expensive, was tasty and well-presented and the service was friendly and efficient.
There is much to commend The Cricketers and it’s a shame a little gloss was taken off this visit as the pressure showed on the waitresses.
So, after warming ourselves by the fire and bidding our friendly barman farewell, we headed back into the horizontal rain.
Perhaps someone can let me know what’s happened to the Kings Arms?