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Secret Drinker reviews The Flower Pot pub in Maidstone on Super Saturday

I have to admit I was a little nervous, after all it’s been quite a while since the last time and I wasn’t sure how I’d get on.

But, I’d been desperately waiting for the opportunity, and now the big day had arrived I convinced myself it would be just like riding a bike.

The Flower Pot is roughly a 10 minute walk along Sandling Road from Maidstone East station
The Flower Pot is roughly a 10 minute walk along Sandling Road from Maidstone East station

So, full of hope and expectation, I headed out to the pub on Saturday night. Mrs SD was reassuring, though did say it wasn’t the first time she’d felt nervous about going out with me.

I didn’t want to be too adventurous for my first time, so swerved some of the larger, less personal establishments in favour of a quieter, smaller, real old fashioned boozer with a bit of character and a reputation for a warm welcome.

I’d been meaning to get back to Maidstone before lockdown and, in particular, to visit The Flower Pot, as I’d been led to believe this is a little oasis in an otherwise desert area when it comes to good pubs.

I’d needed to book, which felt a little odd – making a phone call and then having to send an email several days ahead of popping into the pub does take away some spontaneity, but then again, even pre-lockdown, if you wanted to eat out at a decent boozer on a Saturday night you’d have been well advised to book.

And the process couldn’t have been better handled with a cheery individual picking up the phone and getting me to send an email. My message was answered quickly with: “That’s all booked for you, we look forward to seeing you!”

Plastic screens have been put up at the bar and the staff were taking care to make sure everyone was following the rules to social distance
Plastic screens have been put up at the bar and the staff were taking care to make sure everyone was following the rules to social distance

The pub’s been doing takeaway for some time and there were well defined in/out doors, screens installed, clear signage, plenty of hand sanitiser, tape of the floor to guide you and a proper process to record everyone’s details. There are even signs requesting you stay seated unless you’re visiting the toilets.

We were shown to a well-lit table under three lights that would normally sit over the pool table, immediately underlining the level of re-planning that has taken place.

Of course, I’d love to try this pub in ‘normal’ times but as a ‘getting back into the swing of things’ this was a great starting point.

The menu’s been slimmed down, though the size of the pizzas hasn’t, and the apprentice went all swanky with duck – the prices were good, ranging from my humble chorizo at £7 to his upmarket £11.95.

By the time you put a couple of pizzas on your table there’s not a lot of room for anything else, certainly not a pudding!
By the time you put a couple of pizzas on your table there’s not a lot of room for anything else, certainly not a pudding!

Meatloaf was playing on the sound system, but at a very sensible level, so all was good. Mrs SD played it safe with a large glass of Pinot and the apprentice went safer still on the house lager but I dived in with a pint of 5.9% Jaipur from Thornbridge. It tastes more like an American IPA, but this one’s been popular for a while and it’s easy to see why. Colour-wise it looks more like a lager but there’s plenty of fruity flavours and it slips down just a tad too easily for a beer of this strength.

By now we’d been joined in the middle of the bar by another couple and their two hairy hounds, I’m not sure who was more pleased to be out and they insisted on getting the moment recorded for posterity, or more likely, Insta.

We were warned the food would take a little while as it was busy and it was perhaps half an hour but believe me the pizzas were worth the wait, fantastically fresh, tangy and filling – great, great pub food.

You can spot The Flowerpot as you drive into Maidstone on the A229, just beyond the Shell petrol station, but you need to find your way round the back streets to get to it
You can spot The Flowerpot as you drive into Maidstone on the A229, just beyond the Shell petrol station, but you need to find your way round the back streets to get to it

There were still plenty of folk using the takeaway option and I was impressed to see most elbow bumping rather than hugging.

I switched across to a pint of Deception at 4.1% – this Kiwi offering isn’t quite as fruity and is a bit hazier than the Jaipur. It was pleasant enough but wasn’t in the award-winning league of the first pint.

In the spirit of Meatloaf, two out of the three of us fancied a pudding but unfortunately our waitress came back to say the chef was snowed under with pizza orders and couldn’t even consider knocking out a pud. It was a shame as I fancied a hot toffee sponge but perhaps not surprising on one of the biggest, and strangest, Saturdays in pub-going history.

The Flower Pot is definitely one of the best pubs you’ll find, not only in this part of Maidstone, but right across town – whether you choose to visit with the restrictions in place or when we’re beyond all this nonsense you won’t be disappointed.

The ‘use-them-once’ menus include a good selection of pizzas and sides. I’ll have a dessert next time.
The ‘use-them-once’ menus include a good selection of pizzas and sides. I’ll have a dessert next time.

The Flower Pot – 96 Sandling Road, Maidstone ME14 2RJ

Decor: ****
A proper, unpretentious pub that’s obviously gone over and above to make sure it complies with all the post-lockdown requirements. Nothing too fancy, exactly what a proper boozer should look like.

Drink: ****
Even in these unusual times this is a pub which has got its priorities right, it’s all about the beer here. Usually I make my selection at the bar but I was happy to receive advice at the table and the Jaipur was up to the mark.

Food: ****
Absolutely fantastic pizza, and it would have been a five star performance if chef could’ve just managed to get a pudding out, God love him.

Price: ****
The Jaipur was £4.50 and a large glass of white £5.25. The chorizo pizza was just £7, Mrs SD’s sweet potato and blue cheese another £1.25. The less said about the apprentice’s palate the better, though he did rate the duck.

Atmosphere: ***
It has to be three just because of the times we’re in, but I’m sure as we move forward The Flowerpot will be full on buzzing again very soon.

Staff: ****
All the staff were efficient, helpful and cheery – it’s clearly new territory for them too, but they managed extremely well.

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During our visit a board appeared on the bar, which must have made the bar staff’s job slightly easier as they didn’t need to go through the whole list of beers every time
During our visit a board appeared on the bar, which must have made the bar staff’s job slightly easier as they didn’t need to go through the whole list of beers every time
It is the gents, so what other colour would you go for other than blue? Like everything else about the pub, the toilets are perfectly functional and unpretentious.
It is the gents, so what other colour would you go for other than blue? Like everything else about the pub, the toilets are perfectly functional and unpretentious.
Having the name of the pub on your pint pots is a nice touch
Having the name of the pub on your pint pots is a nice touch

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