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Secret Drinker reviews the Old Ash Tree pub, Rainham Road, Chatham


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Happy New Year. Off to the pub for the first time in 2022, I was greeted by a full-on enormous booming belch – clearly there’d been some serious celebrating in Chatham.

Maybe it’s good that people feel comfortable enough in their local to express themselves and they do say it’s better out than in.

The Old Ash Tree on Rainham Road in Chatham has outside seating areas on both sides of the pub as well as the front. But no-one was braving the rain
The Old Ash Tree on Rainham Road in Chatham has outside seating areas on both sides of the pub as well as the front. But no-one was braving the rain

There was something of a whiff walking into the Old Ash Tree, but I don’t think the guy with gas was to blame as his breath had more garlic to it than the pervading stale smell.

Not to be put off, and this being a Greene King boozer, I decided to make good on a promise I made myself about cocktails on tap.

The espresso martini might come in a fancy small glass but at 12.5% it packs a punch and delivers a powerful coffee taste.

The apprentice went black stuff too with a very decently poured pint of Guinness and Mrs SD, despite my appeals for her to be more adventurous in the New Year, the predictable Sav Blanc.

If sport’s showing it’ll be on here and there were four massive screens displaying battling Brentford defeating a very lackluster Villa side (maybe Gerrard’s honeymoon is over).

The last time I was in a Greene King boozer and saw cocktails on tap I pledged to try one next time I was in – it was pretty good, certainly better than I expected
The last time I was in a Greene King boozer and saw cocktails on tap I pledged to try one next time I was in – it was pretty good, certainly better than I expected
The first round was as black and white as it’s possible to be – an espresso martini is flanked by a traditional Guinness with the large glass of white in the background
The first round was as black and white as it’s possible to be – an espresso martini is flanked by a traditional Guinness with the large glass of white in the background

There was a fifth screen devoted to F1 showing how the season panned out but screen six was blank and the sound was turned down on all of them.

It’s safe to describe this as a sports pub, complete with darts, pool, four fruit machines and more than enough fairly loud lads doing what they like to do – belching, downing brandy shots and gently abusing the fellow with no front teeth serving behind the bar.

But, to be fair, the Old Ash Tree offers more than this and is popular with large, local family groups wanting massive servings of Sunday roast at highly competitive prices.

The portions arrive like mountains cascading across the plates and would even challenge Arg and Gemma Collins in their pre-slimmed-down phases.

Most plates were being sent back to the kitchen with enough food left to feed the rest of the Towie cast. And, a dinner costs just £7.49, or £10.99 for two – okay, there was only a choice of beef or turkey but seriously, I reckon you could feed a whole family for less than a tenner here.

As traditional as it’s possible to be, the central bar at the Old Ash Tree is livened up when the kitchen alarm goes off
As traditional as it’s possible to be, the central bar at the Old Ash Tree is livened up when the kitchen alarm goes off
Served with roast potatoes, mash, vegetables, sage and onion stuffing, Yorkshire pudding and gravy, you can get a beef roast dinner for £7.49
Served with roast potatoes, mash, vegetables, sage and onion stuffing, Yorkshire pudding and gravy, you can get a beef roast dinner for £7.49

Before it got too busy the barmaids took it in turns to grab their own mountainous, steaming roasts and sit in front of the F1 screen to consume about 20% of the contents before returning their plates.

The food might have been piping, but they obviously agreed with Mrs SD that the pub was a touch chilly and kept their hoodies and coats on the whole time.

A sign on the bar displays the entertainment schedule – Monday is poker night, a quiz on Tuesday, darts on Wednesday before another poker night on Thursday. Friday and Saturday both offer live entertainment before Sunday’s offering of ‘delicious roasts’ and another quiz.

With different entertainment on offer each day of the week, you can win prizes speed quizzing on a Tuesday and Sunday evening
With different entertainment on offer each day of the week, you can win prizes speed quizzing on a Tuesday and Sunday evening

There are picnic tables and benches on both sides of the pub as well as the front with an illuminated, covered smoking area on the car park side away from the roads. I couldn’t spot a garden.

As a heads-up, like the last GK pub I visited, the car park is pay and display with a chance to get your cash back against the first round.

On my way to the gents I spied one more event which will take place on Saturday, January 29. The pub is hosting its first bottomless brunch with a meal, unlimited prosecco, mimosas or Bloody Marys and entertainer Paul Cantara – all for a ticket price of £20.

For the record, when I got there I can report the toilets, which smelled better than the rest of the pub, are decorated in a traditional style and a credit to the place.

By the time I made my way back to the bar we’d be joined by a trio of very wet pooches.

Traditionally decorated with claret and white tiles, the gents were clean and sweet smelling, better in fact than the rest of the pub
Traditionally decorated with claret and white tiles, the gents were clean and sweet smelling, better in fact than the rest of the pub

SuperTed, as I now know him, and Pepper were on leads but mum Jess was allowed to roam wild for a time and was very interested in the diners at several tables.

When the hounds calmed down I thought the excitement was over but I was then treated to a blast on the intercom from the kitchen which goes off like a siren behind the bar.

I reckon it’s easier to understand the announcers on railway platforms than this thing but the system seems to work and the bar staff scurry off to keep the massive meals coming out steaming hot.

Before we left we were joined by three extremely damp dogs. Pepper and Ted (SuperTed to his friends) were on leads but Jess was allowed to roam free
Before we left we were joined by three extremely damp dogs. Pepper and Ted (SuperTed to his friends) were on leads but Jess was allowed to roam free

The rising number of customers, combined with the number of meals being served caused the temperature in the bar to increase several notches and I think I was now able to identify the aroma as slightly stale curry.

This, combined with the music chiming in just after 3.30pm, was enough to convince us it was time to make our exit and head back into the teeming rain.

Once again, a very happy New Year to one and all and a very prosperous 2022 to all Kent’s fantastic pubs.

The covered smoking area is on the left hand side of the pub, next to the car park
The covered smoking area is on the left hand side of the pub, next to the car park

Old Ash Tree, 136 Rainham Road, Chatham ME5 7EN

Decor: Old fashioned and traditional, I suspect a few areas have been tarted up recently but there are still some spots which could do with TLC. The variety of floor coverings in the bar was certainly interesting. **

Drink: I’m pleased I followed up on my pledge to sample the on-tap cocktail as it was better than expected. Mrs SD’s usual tipple was okay but she also rated the passion fruit martini and our Apprentice said the Guinness passed muster too. ***

Food: If size is important it would be five-out-of-five but judging by the quantity being sent back it would have to drop by at least two or three stars.

Price: A large white wine was £6.39, a pint of Guinness costs £4.45 and a cocktail on tap will set you back £4.49. If the festive 4.2% Rocking Rudolph is your thing then it’ll cost you £3.65. ***

Staff: There were plenty of bar staff on shift and they got the job done without too much fuss. There is a stack of CCTV around and I wouldn’t be surprised if other sessions get a good deal more lively. **

Staff took turns to take a break for their own huge serving of Sunday roast but didn’t remove hoodies, gilets or coats before sitting down in front of the F1 screen
Staff took turns to take a break for their own huge serving of Sunday roast but didn’t remove hoodies, gilets or coats before sitting down in front of the F1 screen
The car park is strictly pay and display but you get your fee back when you buy your first round
The car park is strictly pay and display but you get your fee back when you buy your first round

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