It was the Moody Mare this week… and I’m not talking about a strop from Mrs SD, this one is on the aptly-named Seven Mile Lane and it’s several miles from any other pubs.
I was working in the West Malling area and again, this is not a slight on ‘er indoors, but packed lunches can become a little repetitive so I thought I’d try this one for a bite.
It’s been ages since I visited for a drink and I think when I was last in it was called The Beeches and was priding itself on slightly upmarket meals, with prices to match.
What I really fancied, apart from a pint of course, was either a baked spud or a ciabatta, in each case, hopefully with a decent filling.
Both options were available but welcoming barman Paul, who’d leapt to attention the moment I activated the jangly bell walking through the door, had an alternative in mind and, by the time my Harvey’s was poured, sold me on a mini version of one of their main meals.
The welcome was hearty, the pint was a great example and the food, which I’ll detail shortly, was nothing short of spectacular.
As I say, the last time I was in I’m sure the place was all about the gourmet experience and while there’s still a good-sized dining area, there’s now also a very decent bar and a vibrant, exciting room at the back.
I’d gone for a lighter, slightly slimmed-down, version of Cumberland sausages, creamy mash and peas. When it arrived, along with a perfectly-sized gravy boat, it was hot, tasty, a spot on size for lunch and an absolute joy.
It was obviously freshly prepared but it wasn’t too long a wait. I also loved the way there was a lusty shout for “service” from the kitchen staff.
There is now so much to like at the Moody Mare: you can see the meat maturing behind a glass-doored fridge in the bar, my hearty meal was less than £9 and a pint less than a fiver, there are bar stools, but no-one’s blocking the bar and the waitress (I didn’t catch her name) was very nearly as efficient, friendly and enthusiastic about her job as Paul.
One thing I was puzzled to see was a postcard of the A-Team (you need to be a certain age!) pinned to the beam above my head. However, it was soon explained and I heard about four regulars who’d bought an old van and, modelling themselves on Faceman, BA Baracus, Murdoch and Hannibal, set off on a marathon drive to raise cash for the pub’s adopted charity, Demelza.
The card was placed in honour to mark their achievements and I was handed a copy of a local news sheet which recorded their laudable efforts. It also explained the strange looking black and red van in the car park!
Anyway, back to my review. I’m delighted to report it was busy and bustling, even on a Tuesday lunchtime, and several folk took the trouble to tell me how much they were enjoying their food.
The gents has been decorated to an excellent standard and as well as being fresh, sweet-smelling and clean you get individual flannels to dry your hands and there’s some truly wacky wallpaper in the entrance area. The ladies, apparently, has wallpaper featuring colourful, tropical birds.
Most of the pub is set out for dining but the separate bar area creates a different, and equally important, atmosphere for those just fancying a drink or two. A pair of fellows even came in for a couple of cappuccinos and received an equally warm welcome.
Although it isn’t currently in use, I accepted an invitation to explore the wonderfully eclectic room at the back and discovered a large open space with comfortable sofas, a wood-burning stove and colourful furnishings.
Back in the bar, next through the door was a group of serious ramblers, complete with muddy boots and hounds, who requested a table at the front window and were seated immediately.
This is now a proper pub again with great staff, who care about what they do and I can thoroughly recommend you make a visit. I can only imagine how busy it will be when the weather starts to warm up again.
As a footnote I see the Kent & Medway Food Awards for 2024 have been launched since my visit here and given my review I think it’s only fair I nominate the Moody Mare – I just need to decide which category it should be.
And, to be fair to some of the other great pubs I’ve visited this year, I’ll consider all the categories and share my nominations with you later this month.
THE MOODY MARE, 501 SEVEN MILE LANE, NEAR WEST MALLING ME18 5QY
Decor: An extensive, comfortable dining area, low beamed ceilings, wacky wallpaper, superbly decorated facilities and a large, eclectically furnished room at the back – the Moody Mare is well set up to welcome all-comers. ****
Drink: I was never going to look beyond the 4% Harvey’s Sussex Best and can report this was a good example. I tried the Ghost Ship from Adnams and this was a pretty good second. There was a good selection of other drinks available. ****
Price: I was pleased to find an excellent pint under a fiver for the first time in several weeks. My Harvey’s cost £4.75 and I also reckon you’ll go a long way to get a better sausage and mash for £8.95. If you go for a Madri it will cost you £5.70. A cappuccino was £3. ****
Staff: From moment one Paul was welcoming, keen to please and showed pride in everything he did. I didn’t get his colleague’s name but she displayed she is equally pleased and proud to work here. *****
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