Meeting a mate off a train in Tonbridge I found myself with just the right amount of time for a pint or two and a pizza in a nearby boozer.
Simply walking into the Foresters Arms provides a full-on assault to your senses. Colourful in the extreme, with powerfully obscure tunes belting through the speakers, there’s a slightly grungy feel to the place.
Add to this an absolute sea of unnecessary fairy lights (regular readers will be aware of my pet hate) and you might think I’d turn tail immediately and head for the door.
But, take a moment to look a little deeper and you’ll discover this is an absolute gem with a warm heart and a great deal of character.
It was quiet when I walked in and I could actually hear myself think and speak as I ordered a pint of Hurlimann – I hadn’t had this particular Shepherd Neame lager in many a long year. I perched on one of the plentiful, tall bar stools and enjoyed the warmth from the roaring log burner – noting as I did that the TV screen above it was not on, another plus.
Having ventured through the cold night air, I made a relatively early visit to the facilities, carefully avoiding Uma Thurman as she was guarding the door to the ladies, I navigated the most colourful corridor I’ve ever encountered.
The gents were by far the cleanest and most well cared for part of the pub and looked to have had a recent overhaul.
Returning to my seat there was no sign of my pint and I played hunt the lager for several moments before the barmaid piped up: “Oh, I thought you’d gone, me and my tidying up”.
To be fair, the replacement pint I was served was a good 50% fuller than the one I’d been hunting for and was delivered with a lovely smile and good grace.
When mate Dave made it in he opted for the Guinness and declared it a well poured drop before we both placed orders for pizza.
Selecting carefully from the CD case menu we chose a Mare Monti and a Foresters, both large, both a tenner, and both absolutely fantastic.
The choice isn’t extensive. There's eight offerings, and one of those is electric banana, but keeping it minimal and making sure they’re perfectly cooked is the secret to success – you can order pizza anytime the pub is open, but you can’t order anything else.
To call the pub rough and ready would be unfair, as it’s obviously evolved over time but minimalist it isn’t.
Bar billiards (tick), beer towels on the walls (tick), old school desks for tables (tick) – not everyone will enjoy the slight grungy feel, but I loved it.
There’s even money stuck to the walls. I absolutely loved the mini vinyl records fashioned as beer mats and absolutely detested some of the ‘a good deal too loud music’ being pumped out.
The Aussie guy, with a very happy-go-lucky hippy-type look and a bun in his hair, who was making the pizzas, must be the boss and clearly sets the atmosphere.
The older barmaid who cleared away my pint was now on the other side of the bar sitting on a stool enjoying a drink and, when I passed and enquired what it was she offered me a taste. I wouldn’t rush back for a Japanese Slipper (look it up) but they do say you should try anything once, except perhaps Morris dancing.
Though it was very kind of her and I agreed with her decision to add extra cherry juice.
Parking is tricky as there’s no pub car park, so check restrictions in the nearby streets carefully but once you’re in you’re sure of a warm welcome.
There is another decent sized room upstairs which even features a full-size shuffleboard – it costs £10 an hour to play.
The free-to-use dartboard over the log store wasn’t in action but the pound-a-go pool table was soon in full swing.
There are the stripped wooden floors you’d expect, some interesting use of scaffolding poles, which you might not expect, and colourful candles on all the windowsills and tables.
Hounds are welcome too and there’s a decent outside area should our weather finally buck up. This, even though it’s currently only being used by smokers, is again thoroughly colourful and fairy lit.
Laid back and cosy, just a stone’s throw from the station, and serving great pizzas - I can thoroughly recommend this one. And, given what I’ve previously said about pubs near stations that’s praise indeed.