Published: 11:00, 22 May 2020
| Updated: 16:58, 24 November 2020
Seven out of ten people reckon the thing they’ve missed most during lockdown is their local pub.
Sure, some ingenious folk have created home from home bars in the back garden and have even managed to share a few socially-distanced pints with neighbours across the garden fence.
But nothing, it seems, can rival the appeal of the local pub - and, if you live in this neck of the woods, it’s likely you’ve been missing a little beauty from the Shepherd Neame stable.
With hundreds of pubs across the county, I’ve been lucky enough to review a whole host of Sheps’ boozers during the last year and am regularly asked to name my favourite.
This is tricky as there are so many and they’re all so different.
So, what I’ve decided to do is to narrow my decision down to a top five, but so I can be fair to all I’ve come up with two lists - my top five seaside pubs and five inland ones.
To qualify as a top ‘seasider’ I set the rule you must be able to sit in the pub, look out of a window and see the waves.
With this in mind, No.5 in my list must go to the Minnis Bay in Birchington as the sea view is simply stunning. There was a warm fire alight the day I was in and I was perfectly happy with a pint in hand just watching the ships on the horizon.
The reason it’s in my ‘best of’ list is the fact I was really taken by the incredible pride all the staff still took in the makeover carried out by Shepherd Neame, even though it was five years ago.
Add to this the warm welcome offered to both those on two legs and four (even though they were yappy and argued!) and it’s well deserving of a place in the list. You can read my full review here.
In at No.4 is The Belle Vue in Pegwell Bay. This is another very worthy inclusion and you can certainly see the waves from a window, though I must admit the inside of the pub does become a bit of a corridor to the main event, the outside seating area, when the sun shines.
The company itself crowned it as its Pub of the Year a few years back so it’s clearly highly rated. Add in a funny German and the best furnished fag den I’ve ever come across and you’ve got a seaside boozer which can mix it with the very best.
I visited the ‘Balcony of Kent’ almost a year ago to the day. Here's the full review.
Next on my list has to be the Bell Hotel in Sandwich. Now, I haven’t reviewed this particular gem yet and I know it will be controversial as, to be fair, it breaks my own rule. But, I could see the river very clearly when I visited and I reckon the water in the Stour must at least still be brackish at this point.
I loved this pub from the moment I set foot inside. The guy behind the bar was incredibly friendly and even though it was rammed (there was a wedding on, remember those?), he still took a moment to make you feel special.
It offers the perfect blend of traditional splendour and modern chic – which, to be fair, isn’t cheap but you get what you pay for and this one is well worth taking a look at just as soon as we’re beyond this dreaded lockdown.
Second for me, and just missing out on the top spot, it’s the Old Neptune in Whitstable. I used to visit as a student and you’ve got to love a place that, when you visit 30 years later, still holds the same familiarity.
The affectionately-known Neppy might have a stack of great history but has cleverly crafted itself as www.thepubonthebeach.co.uk to take full advantage not only of its position on the coastline but also on the internet. I had the hairy hound with me for company and she made stacks of new friends.
This place is just as quirky as I remember it and is still pulling in plenty of locals and visitors alike. I called into the Old Neptune one sunny, cold January day, but I’d have loved nothing more than a return visit this summer. Here's the review.
The No.1 spot for me has to go the Hampton Inn in Herne Bay. With nine large windows all offering a great sea view, whatever the season, that’s a very big box ticked. But it was the welcome from the landlord which guaranteed this one prime position.
Happy to chat and clearly incredibly proud of the pub he runs, it was also refreshing he was prepared to sing the praises of the brewery. The cheery banter he so readily shares has clearly rubbed off on the barmaids who were equally pleasant and welcoming. T
he locals were only too happy to say why they loved the place and it’s no wonder it’s a bit hit with the walkers who visit too. Make sure you add this one to your ‘must visit’ list just as soon as we’re beyond this madness. Read the full review here.
I do realise are other great seaside pubs I haven’t managed to mention and I’m sure many of you will have your own favourites, but hopefully you can all agree these five are great pubs.
If you know a ‘Sheps seasider’ which you think should have made the list feel free to let me know.