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Secret Drinker reviews The Pippin in Maidstone

In the words of the immortal Slade, Merry Christmas Everybody.

What a treat, the greatest festive song of all time was blaring out in The Pippin in Maidstone to herald the season. There were even a couple of old codgers who’d pulled on ridiculous Christmas jumpers to ram the point home.

Viewed from the road, the Pippin looks large enough, but it also extends way out to the back
Viewed from the road, the Pippin looks large enough, but it also extends way out to the back

I love this time of year and a good sing-song as much as the next man but, with this being a Greene King pub, what I really wanted to know was whether Rocking Rudolph was back?

This Yuletide treat is so popular the story has it 4.2% Rudolph can only be produced for Christmas as they wouldn’t be able to brew enough of it at other times to keep up with demand. Well, that’s what barman Sam reckons – unless, he’s just a darned good marketer for GK.

Barman Sam reckons Rocking Rudolph is too popular to be served all year round
Barman Sam reckons Rocking Rudolph is too popular to be served all year round

Whatever the case, and I know Greene King beers get a good deal of flak, I reckon this dark brown, full bodied winter warmer with a small creamy head stands out from the rest.

With a decent tune playing, a good beer on tap and Mrs SD quieted down with a large New Zealand sauvignon, I decided we should linger awhile and try the food too.

Over the years I’ve discovered a few Greene King gems, but even a cursory look at The Pippin told me that whilst pleasant, it wasn’t about to be added to the special list.

Even the specials board and the extensive gin menu have been adapted for the festive season
Even the specials board and the extensive gin menu have been adapted for the festive season

Yes, nice enough decorations and I’m sure they get plenty of office parties in here as well as catering for big family groups, but it’s not overflowing with character.

Okay, so Mrs SD liked the mix of leather and wooden furniture and even said one table would go well in her kitchen, but it’s all a bit functional and soulless.

Perhaps it’s this slightly bland, but inoffensive, feel which makes it an attractive alternative to working from home. Several people were set up on laptops or making calls from mobiles and one fellow didn’t touch his large coke for the whole hour we were in.

The pub, with a large restaurant at the back, is easily assessed from the side door
The pub, with a large restaurant at the back, is easily assessed from the side door

With no pool table, darts or jukebox to cause interruptions I suppose it’s a good place to conduct business, interestingly the screen displaying the news and all three fruit machines were also set to silent.

Okay, there was background music but even Slade were played quietly and following them was some dreadful dirge produced by The Smithereens, Christmas Time is Here Again.

The pub's got a massive car park at the side and rear and there’s enough seating for a small army but it was just a few kiddies and wrinklies while we were in.

The way the outside area is set up they must get legions through the door in the summer and there is a decent view from the back of the pub across the car park, but it is desperately lacking in atmosphere.

Folding glass doors at the front of the pub can be pulled aside in the summer to take full advantage of the better weather
Folding glass doors at the front of the pub can be pulled aside in the summer to take full advantage of the better weather

By now our fishfinger sandwich and tuna mayo melt had been delivered by a waiter sporting the same black and green checked uniform as the barman. The melt was hot and delicious and if the fish fingers had just been left under the grill a few moments longer they would have been cooked through too. As it was Mrs SD left the translucent bits to one side – this was a shame as otherwise the sarnies and side salad were fresh and nicely presented.

Nicely presented, the bread and salad were both very fresh, the fish fingers (goujons) just needed a few more moments to cook
Nicely presented, the bread and salad were both very fresh, the fish fingers (goujons) just needed a few more moments to cook

There’s much to commend this place, beautiful winter hanging baskets, live bands once a month and a quiz every other Thursday. But, despite these efforts, it just doesn’t have the heart or soul of some of the better Greene King pubs I’ve visited.

The gas fire halfway up the wall might have given the place a warmer feel but didn’t look like it had been switched on for a while and I’m afraid to say that even without the power of sight you’d know if you’d been teleported to the gents – they looked clean but the whiff was enough to bring a tear to the eye.

The gents looked clean and tidy but certainly carried a whiff the day I was in
The gents looked clean and tidy but certainly carried a whiff the day I was in

I’m sure some folk will have enjoyed their office party here and others will appreciate the family friendly feel of the place but for me it’s much less Christmas cracker and more soggy sprouts.

Next week Secret Drinker heads to Sheppey.

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The pub has live bands once a month and a quiz every other Thursday
The pub has live bands once a month and a quiz every other Thursday

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