Published: 11:30, 21 August 2020
| Updated: 12:11, 21 August 2020
I ended up in the middle of nowhere this week but fortunately, having taken a wrong turn down a winding lane, found an interesting looking little boozer well off the beaten track.
Parking was challenge number one as there wasn’t a single space out front and the lane was tighter than the proverbial part of a duck.
Ever the gentleman, I dropped Mrs SD at the door of this Basted pub and finally found a spot at the bottom of the hill. Cursing as I started to trek back, I was waylaid for a moment by a beautiful little stream.
Sweaty and breathless, my better half presented me with a pint of Harvey’s and we found a seat on the decking out front.
But, the power of the sun, even after 6pm, forced us back inside and, after a bit of indecision, we bent our necks to head through the open doors at the back of the pub.
Having discovered a spot of shade in the fantastic back garden I asked the barmaid what was on the menu. It was at this point we got the bad news – the boss, who does all the cooking, had his knee replaced a couple of days ago and hadn’t yet made it back to the kitchen. She said he’d be down at 6.30pm and we might at least get a bar bite.
Right on schedule Ben and his crutches appeared and, whilst incredibly affable, it was made clear food sadly wasn’t on the menu.
When I say ‘made clear’ it was made as clear as it can be by a man from a mining town beginning with the letter F somewhere between Glasgow and Edinburgh. He might have moved south of the border 47 years ago, but the accent’s as strong as ever.
A straight-talking publican, who clearly fell in love with The Plough the moment he saw it, and is in the trade for all the right reasons, we both warmed to him immediately.
He might be moving slowly, but his crazy hound, pub dog Poppy, who’s completely loopy juice, made up for Ben's lack of action. Saved from the side of the road, aged just six-week’s old, this runt of the litter now spends her life trying to wind up every other dog in the place.
Ben took over this beautiful pub seven years ago and shut it down on July 2 2013. When it reopened in September he tried someone else for the cooking but when it didn’t work out he stepped into the kitchen two weeks later and has been there six days a week ever since.
By his own admission the place had a bad name for drugs and fighting but he said: “I started barring people, even the good spenders, I’d rather have gone bust than keep getting the wrong sort of people in.”
Ben, who used to work in construction, revamped the pub himself during lockdown and the majority of the place looked great – though personally there’s no way I’d have chosen that shade of blue! At the moment he reckons takings are 70% down so he’s keeping his fingers crossed things will pick up very soon.
I did sample the 3.4% Larkins but I’m afraid I have to report I found it very lack lustre and certainly couldn’t face a pint.
And, as the barmaid said she hadn’t pulled a pint of Tribute since coming on shift at five I swerved that one too, opting instead for the safe option of a pint of ‘wife beater’.
Our host promised he’d be back doing fish and chips on Friday and cooking a full roast this Sunday.
So, with food being mentioned again and our tums grumbling, we left Ben comparing scars with Steve and several other regulars – it was like that great scene in Jaws -and headed to the local fish and chippy to get some grub.
But, don’t worry Ben we’ll be back to try your cooking before too long.
The Plough – Plough Hill, Basted, near Sevenoaks TN15 8PS
Decor: I like the old fashioned, slightly rough and ready feel to this traditional boozer, but selecting that particular shade of blue had to lose him a star! ****
Drink: The Harvey’s was well kept and well poured. It’s good to find a knowledgeable barmaid who’s not afraid to share her opinion. ***
Price: The Harvey’s was £3.90 and a large Sav Blanc £5.95. A pint of Stella will set you back £4.20 - not too bad, given Sevenoaks is just round the corner. ***
Atmosphere: Everyone was welcoming and happy to chat. Poppy was completely crazy but black Jess was an absolute sweetie – the locals seemed a decent mob too. ****
Staff: A no-nonsense, straight talking pub boss who loves this great village pub. The way they abuse each other perfectly demonstrates the high regard in which he is held by his regulars. *****