Published: 11:30, 29 November 2019
| Updated: 14:35, 27 January 2020
I’ve lived in Kent for more than 20 years and I thought I’d got used to the fact place names are said nothing like they’re spelt, but what’s going on in this neck of the woods?
First I hear Teston is pronounced TEEs’n, then I’m told Trottiscliffe is pronounced TROZ-lee, and, just in case that’s not confusing enough, the nearby Trosley Country Park is also pronounced TROZ-lee.
I decided to play safe and have a pint in Wrotham only to find out I was in fact in ROOT’m.
Still, the Rose & Crown on the high street is a Shepherd Neame house and if anyone is going to understand weird, historical naming conventions it should be Britain’s oldest brewer.
The slightly strange feeling continued in the pub as the first fellow I came across was sat at the bar wearing a flowery waistcoat and drinking Guinness through a straw.
In fact, everyone in the Rose & Crown was sat or stood around the central square bar and I had to reach through them to be served.
These locals sat around trying to sound knowledgeable on a range of subjects which, when she’d heard enough, the barmaid checked on Wikipedia before correcting them.
The barmaid was friendly, cheerful and happy to recommend a pint of Spitfire Amber Ale as her best offer. The 4.2% bitter was not oversweet and makes an excellent English session ale.
Despite the recommendation, Mrs SD was not to be swayed so I still had to cough up six quid for her usual sauvignon blanc.
We sat at a large table at the front of the pub, after all there wasn’t any space left around the bar, but were advised to relocate before ordering our food. To be fair this was good advice as the darts team were hosting a fixture against local rivals the Black Horse from Borough Green and we would have been directly in the firing line.
A fellow, dressed head to toe in black and sporting Paul Hollywood-style face hair, elaborately kissed the board before screwing it to the wall and declaring to no-one in particular he hoped the darts god would be good to him tonight. It was quite a display but, judging by his practice arrows, made totally in vain.
However, despite this fascinating show, my attention was taken as our food had arrived. Mrs SD went for the scampi at £10.95 and, as I was less hungry, I had the whitebait starter for £5.50. They were both, fresh, well presented and excellent. Apparently there was a kitchen wall and tartar sauce moment, but by the time everything reached us it all looked and tasted great.
Although no-one seems to sit anywhere but at the bar, the corner with the dartboard demonstrates perfectly how the pub makes good use of space – a table for dining when darts isn’t being played and there’s even a projector screen for the big games. How nice not to have a screen on when there’s nothing worth watching.
The Rose & Crown might have darts but there’s no fruit machine, pool or jukebox. Everything else is traditional – stripped floorboards, an open fire ready to be made up and, unusually, the dining chairs match (unlike so many ‘trendier’ places with different chairs) though there are some different benches.
And, talking of tradition a large percentage of locals were sporting flat caps – draw your own conclusions.
We hadn’t got room for a pudding but the list looked traditional too and I’m sure they too would have been great British fare.
There was also a second open fireplace towards the back of the pub which contained an electric fire – this wasn’t on either and, inexplicably, seemed to be contained by what looked like a metal garden gate.
Very much a haunt for locals the car park was so packed we couldn’t get a space, but there’s no way everyone was in the pub, so I assume local residents must be allowed to use it.
Like many Sheps pubs it loves its history and old photos are all around the walls.
I even heard one bar-bound local reminiscing and recalling the first time she came into the place in 1988 – in those days she reckoned the landlady turned a blind eye to drugs and ‘many other things’ so she was delighted to announce things had changed for the better and she been visiting happily for many years.
Despite the slightly ‘Vicar of Dibley’ look and feel to the bar-locked locals we too can report we enjoyed our visit to ROOT’m.