Published: 11:30, 14 February 2020
The sea view is simply stunning, okay the sun was shining and it was a crisp, bright winter lunchtime, but whatever the weather you won’t find many more impressive vistas.
Sitting alongside a warm fire on a high stool in the Minnis Bay in Birchington personally I’d be happy enough to simply sip a beer and watch the ships travel across the horizon.
But, I was also peckish and Secret Drinker fans are always encouraging me to report back on the quality of the nosh offered.
Shepherd Neame took this bar on about five years ago and did it up to produce the place you’ll find today. Proud barmaid Kelly clearly identifies with the pub and said: “We did it up”. So what exactly have they created?
Perfectly positioned on the coastline, there is a modern glass reception area leading to a bar on the left, which feels more like a pub, and to the right a large, spacious, well laid-out dining area that would grace any restaurant. Describing itself as a bar and a brasserie is probably the fairest, and most accurate, definition.
My natural instinct saw me turn left and find a table in the bar. I ordered an ‘open’ sandwich with rare roast beef and blue cheese on toasted sourdough with caramelised red onion, watercress mustard cream and pea shoots. And, for good measure, a bowl of chips.
The sandwich, whilst not cheap, was tasty and the fantastically rare, and plentiful, beef an absolute delight. I’d have liked a little more cheese, but everything was perfectly prepared and presented. The chips too were just as I like them and could not be faulted.
This was all washed down with a pint of 4.8% Bear Island Pale Ale – it was a good golden colour with a decent fluffy white head and plenty of carbonation which meant it was fresh to the last mouthful, a decent offering from Sheps.
The fire behind the central entrance was a little warm, even for me, so I moved across to a table by the front window.
From here there was a great view of the sea and, with the scores of picnic tables out front and on the grass area at the side, it’s clear this place is a popular venue in warmer weather.
However, on the way in I’d also spotted a glass panelled veranda upstairs and was keen to enjoy the panorama from here too – sadly, it was closed and, from what I could tell, the first floor function room was being used to interview potential new staff.
Back in the bar area a nice old couple who’d finished their drinks and were leaving kindly offered me their seats. There was a bit of a kerfuffle and a lot of bleeping as her disabled scooter got stuck in the door, but they made it out in the end.
Now, regular readers will know I’m more of a dog lover than most and keenly support pooches in pubs, but the meeting of small yappy dogs and the row they were now creating tested even my considerable patience.
A 10-year-old Yorkie called Lucy dutifully took her pills before a shih-tzu kicked off and a Jack Russell joined the melee – it started to feel more like the local dogs’ home. Fortunately a commanding lady took control of the situation and with one sharp rebuke of "Richard" quelled the noise (I’m not sure if she was speaking to her husband or the shih-tzu?)
The quality of the view has clearly allowed the Minnis Bay to price its menu accordingly, but I felt the warmth of the welcome and the quality of the food justified the hike.
And, although nothing original was retained in the wood-themed nautically makeover, I think the look works for this impressive beachfront bar brasserie.
The theme is continued in the gents, which were warm, clean and well maintained – though, like everywhere else, there were just a couple of minor signs it’s been a few years since the makeover – a few touch-ups will be needed soon.
I wasn’t particularly crazy about the pudding list, and I’d already stretched the exes, so I decided to head further along the coast to find myself an ice cream.
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