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Secret Drinker reviews the Dukes Head pub in Hamstreet, Ashford

Driving past and looking in through the window all I could see was a large group of very bloke-looking blokes craning their necks upwards like a group of excited meerkats.

But, by the time Mrs SD and I entered the Dukes Head in Hamstreet, near Ashford, the footie had finished and the fellas were able to rest their necks.

The pub has various deals on food throughout the week including two steaks for £25 on Thursday nights
The pub has various deals on food throughout the week including two steaks for £25 on Thursday nights

The place was fairly rammed on a Saturday evening and, according to the barmaid, had been manic since she started her shift at 5pm – there must be more people interested in the Scousers beating Spurs 1-0 than I thought.

The left hand bar was raucous to the point of being unnerving and we swiftly turned right for what we hoped would be a more serene environment.

There is actually a restaurant area at the back for diners but the open fire was at the front so we settled here – although the thing barely flickered into life while we were in.

What did fire up almost immediately was the girl standing at the bar, obviously here under sufferance, who looked up from her mobile just long enough to rip a strip of her fella or ‘tool’ as she called him. He, not caring two jots for her foul-mouthed outburst, carried on drinking and slurring to his mates.

With a Doom Bar and large sauvignon in our respective hands we’d already ordered food by now so didn’t really have any choice but to watch the floor show.

There were a couple of beers on tap, Doom Bar and Westgate’s IPA – I’d recommend the former
There were a couple of beers on tap, Doom Bar and Westgate’s IPA – I’d recommend the former
Maybe the fire wasn’t stoked for fear it might burst into life and a spark could ruin the carpet!
Maybe the fire wasn’t stoked for fear it might burst into life and a spark could ruin the carpet!

Fortunately, after threatening to throw it all over him if he dared have another drink, they both took their full-on screaming, swearing and arm-flinging argument outside.

There is no way I’d ever describe this as a family pub, but there was one young lad pinging off the walls fuelled by a mixture of Monster Munch and Haribo - he at least kept regulars in the left hand bar busy with his dancing.

When footie’s on, the huge TV screen dominates but once the final whistle blows the pool table, under a phenomenally bright fluorescent tube, takes over – it was in constant use and every frame was keenly contested.

Likewise, the biggest electronic fruit machine I’ve ever seen was in action non-stop.

The full menu is extensive
The full menu is extensive
The original Dukes Head pub was next to the road but it was rebuilt to create a car park at the front
The original Dukes Head pub was next to the road but it was rebuilt to create a car park at the front

We’d only ordered starters, and there didn’t seem to be too many people eating, but the chicken/chorizo salad, cheesy garlic bread and bacon/stilton bites did take 40 minutes to arrive. When the waitress did finally proclaim: “There you go darlin”, I have to say each generous-sized dish, whilst a fraction greasy, was very tasty.

This is very much a boozer for locals and there was a high percentage of baseball caps being worn as well trackie bottoms and colourful trainers which competed with the brightness of the pool table light.

At this point a group walked in with all the women sporting animal print coats which really challenged the flamboyant pattern on the carpet. I’m not sure what they were when alive, but it looked to me as if a snow leopard was taking on a cougar.

The portion of chicken, avocado, bacon and chorizo salad was certainly generous
The portion of chicken, avocado, bacon and chorizo salad was certainly generous
There is an intricate wrought-iron shelf above the bar to hold the clean glasses
There is an intricate wrought-iron shelf above the bar to hold the clean glasses

As well as the fruit machine there was a quiz machine and a jukebox, but I don’t know if it would have kicked in above the radio which was blasting out Heart. Sadly it’s another local pub where the stools dominate the bar so much it’s almost impossible to get served.

At this point the arguing guy re-entered the bar and dared to drink another large drink and stumble out before climbing into his van parked just outside the front door and disappearing into the night – presumably to find the girlfriend who’d snatched a key earlier and left ahead of him.

Like the disgruntled duo we also felt it was time to settle our tab and head back into the night, leaving the locals to practice for Poco Loco Karaoke which is already being heavily advertised despite not taking place until 8pm on Thursday, April 9.

I’m told the current owners have improved the Dukes Head beyond recognition which just leaves me feeling very grateful I didn’t get to sample it before now.

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Find out more about the pub at www.thedukesheadhamstreet.co.uk
Find out more about the pub at www.thedukesheadhamstreet.co.uk

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The gents may have been retiled fairly recently, but it’s a shame they chose beige and brown
The gents may have been retiled fairly recently, but it’s a shame they chose beige and brown
There seemed to be a problem with mould in the cubicle in the ladies
There seemed to be a problem with mould in the cubicle in the ladies
The chicken, bacon and stilton bites were served with a side salad and roll
The chicken, bacon and stilton bites were served with a side salad and roll

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