Dating back to the 14th century, I knew the Red Lion at Lenham was always going to be steeped in tradition and history. What you can never be so sure of in old world boozers like this one is the type of welcome you’ll receive from the locals?
Well, there was no need to worry, the locals here are as cheerful and friendly as you could hope for and they’re just as happy to take the mickey out of visitors as they are each other.
As we walked in Paul, perched on a stool in his regular slot, was once again being accused of not buying a drink. Now, I can’t say whether Paul has long pockets and short arms, but I do know it’s not easy getting through the narrow gap he leaves behind himself at the bar!
We’d entered by the door on the left hand side and, having found ourselves in a fairly large and quiet dining room, decided to walk through to the bar. This is easily done at the Red Lion as the main bar is square and central covering both rooms.
Landlord Steve watched us negotiate our way around Paul and then recommended a pint of Harvey’s Sussex Best and a large wine for Mrs SD.
When we explained we’d also like a bite to eat he said he’d call a waitress over to us – this is clearly a barman who doesn’t want to do too much or stray too far from the chatty locals.
Unfortunately the waitress who was pointed in our direction, wasn’t anywhere near as chatty or friendly as everyone else when taking our order for a whitebait and a butcher’s burger.
By now Irish Joe was ringing a taxi to make his way home and his spot in the bar was taken by an extremely large, long-haired white hound called Jasmine. Owner Jackie explained she was a five-year-old alsatian/malamute cross and, as we were eating, even dissuaded her from licking herself quite so enthusiastically in public.
But, this wasn’t the only entertainment available and, whilst the music wasn’t too loud, I could make out both Blondie plus Earth Wind and Fire – though I’m pleased to report the TV screen in the bar was switched off.
There was also a fascinating plaque entitled Uncle Bert, Past but still Present. I’m sure this dates to a time when it was a sensible commercial idea for every old pub to have its own ghost and the unsmiling waitress confirmed as much – though it’s still a sound financial idea for a pub to have its own resident spook.
The food was obviously cooked to order but didn’t take too long and was fresh and tasty. The burger, topped with cheddar and fried onions can definitely be recommended.
It may be a little old and tatty round the edges but there are some lovely touches in this traditional pub that looks out on the village square and it’s well worth a look if you’re in the area. There are beams throughout with old fashioned pint mugs hanging from them and they even offer eggs for sale which come from a local farm that rescues chickens and ducks.
Like everything else, the toilets probably haven’t been updated for a few decades but they’re functional, fresh and clean.
There is a fairly large outdoor area at the back, though I’m not quite sure it can fairly be called a garden, and the pub organises regular events from quizzes to live music and barbecues.
If you've never been before, Lenham is a small market village just off the A20 between Maidstone and Ashford. There's also a mainline station.
The Red Lion is a proper, down-to-earth pub which provides locals with exactly the sort of village boozer they deserve and should be supported.