A Tuesday evening just after New Year – everyone’s over indulged, over spent and generally over done it, so they’re curled up indoors and the local pub’s empty. And that’s if they’re drinking at all during Dri-anuary, Fanuary or whatever the name of the latest ridiculous fad might be.
Well, Cock Inn regulars are having no such nonsense and this homely, village pub in Ide Hill was packed to the rafters with folk enjoying a good drink, a great atmosphere and an amazing log fire.
Last time I visited it was during the summer and I sat outside where the barmaid graciously passed my pint through the front window, directly from the bar to the bench where I was enjoying the sunshine.
This time I ventured in and as soon as I spied the low beamed ceilings, a pair of double-barrelled shotguns on the wall and the massive inglenook fireplace I knew I’d made the right decision.
The South African landlord, who takes a very hands-on approach, has been in situ for five years and it’s immediately apparent he’s had a great influence on the place. Before taking over here he was at The Woodman, just down the road, for 13 years so he knows the area well and understands what punters want.
There are absolutely no frills - no pool, no darts, no jukebox, no screens, no fruit machines, not even any music. The fact is none of this frippery is required here and the place is packed with, mainly local, drinkers who appreciate a proper pub.
Be careful driving in as there’s a tight gateway on the driveway leading through to the car park at the back, and, while we’re doing warnings, there’s also quite a step down into the main bar.
There was a Cock house ale on tap but the barman wasn’t sure what it was and, having tried it, I declined it in favour of a pint of Speckled Hen.
There was a good mix of locals and visitors in, as well as a good range of different ages and sexes - my personal favourite was the hipster at the bar making a bold fashion statement with his headscarf.
I headed instinctively for the inviting open fire, but the heat from the massive logs was so intense I moved my chair away from the blaze slightly, not realising I’d blocked the door from upstairs and was inadvertently keeping my host from entering his own bar! Once allowed back in he was soon busy again checking the fire and keeping the pub on track.
Much has been done to make sure this place is on top of its game, the toilets look recently refurbished and are superbly maintained, the flowers in the window boxes still display some colour and I liked the attention to detail - the Dinky toys in a presentation case, the original horse brasses around the fire and the way the old bread oven in the corner of the bar has been retained.
The quality of this place hasn’t happened by accident, it’s been created and maintained with hard work and attention to detail.
I’d already eaten so I couldn’t sample the full menu, but did stretch to a pud and can heartily recommend the millionaire caramel truffle bar – if anything a tad too rich, even for my taste.
This is the sort of pub where blokes stand at the bar drinking and reach up to hold onto the beams for reassurance – I haven’t seen this for years. And, when one fella started his conversation with: “My grandad was a strongman at the circus and that’s how they met”, I knew this was a proper pub.
Do you know what, I enjoyed my visit so much, following a long walk across the fields with the SD hound, I returned on Sunday lunchtime.
This time the bar was quieter, but the dining room was packed by 12.30pm and just about every table was reserved. If you want to beat the January blues my advice is to head out and sample the Cock.