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Secret Drinker reviews the Malt Shovel pub in Eynsford, near Swanley

The well-illuminated sign on the side of the Malt Shovel proved just too inviting as I headed through Eynsford village, close to Brands Hatch, on a dark Monday evening.

With a large car park directly opposite and a few folk sat at the benches outside it would have been rude not to pop in.

Having convinced myself I deserved a pint I was pleased to note, that even this early in the week, the pub was reassuringly busy with most tables taken.

The Perspex screens are up and I can report the tables are all correctly distanced but it still felt welcoming and the very pleasant chap behind the bar was as chirpy with visitors as he was with his regulars.

There were a couple of draft bitters available and I went slightly off-piste by swerving the Harvey’s in favour of the even more local 3.5% Golden Rule, brewed by Tonbridge Brewery.

It had a very pleasant, crisp taste that belies the relatively low percentage, but is well balanced with delicate slightly citrus flavours – a good choice if I say so myself.

Pint in hand I took a seat and surveyed my surroundings – there was a fair old mixture in, I was alongside a particularly large family group but there were also a good number of couples in for a meal and several tables of blokes enjoying a pint and each other’s company.

The Malt Shovel sits just off Station Road in Eynsford but there is still enough room for bench seats out front
The Malt Shovel sits just off Station Road in Eynsford but there is still enough room for bench seats out front

The hard-working fellow behind the bar introduced himself as Andrew and seeing me making a note on my phone came scurrying over unrequested to kindly deliver a wi-fi code. You know what they say, if you want a something done, ask a busy man.

The place has had the full on trendy makeover you’d expect in a pub of this type and the beams are all painted in the same light shade of paint that is difficult to identify – it could be either grey or green.

Either way, any pub painted this colour, with plenty of tartan and surprisingly tasteful carpets, usually knows how to charge.

Tastefully decorated throughout, introducing the obligatory on-trend lightbulbs and lightening up the beams hasn’t taken away the charm of the place
Tastefully decorated throughout, introducing the obligatory on-trend lightbulbs and lightening up the beams hasn’t taken away the charm of the place
No pool, darts, jukebox or TV screens blinding you, but there is a selection of games available should you be in the mood for more than just a chat
No pool, darts, jukebox or TV screens blinding you, but there is a selection of games available should you be in the mood for more than just a chat

I’d settled in nicely and the group to my right, which included a couple of ‘septic tanks’ were loving their food so I requested a menu and, Monday being Thai night in this neck of the woods, couldn’t resist ordering a portion of drunken noodles.

This is not a place with dart boards, pool tables, jukeboxes and a mass of TV screens to entertain you, it’s all about the craic instead.

The kids in the family group had brought their own entertainment in the form of Rubik cubes, which they were solving with remarkable ease. I could never do the bloomin’ things and used to be told off for cheating by peeling the stickers off.

Some older, beamed pubs can be a little on the dark side, The Malt Shovel has taken a lighter approach
Some older, beamed pubs can be a little on the dark side, The Malt Shovel has taken a lighter approach
Unfortunately it was too dark for me to view the garden at the back but according to the sign it’s beautiful and the regulars did concur
Unfortunately it was too dark for me to view the garden at the back but according to the sign it’s beautiful and the regulars did concur

There is one curved TV in situ but I assume it’s only switched on when there’s something worth watching.

The drunken noodles were delivered by a very friendly and chatty waitress wearing a mask who checked I had everything I needed.

With two chillies against the menu listing I hoped this would be a tangy dish and wasn’t disappointed. Fantastic flavour, fantastic quality, fantastic sized portion – really great food.

This is the Monday night Thai menu and if the drunken noodles are anything to go by then it’s all excellent
This is the Monday night Thai menu and if the drunken noodles are anything to go by then it’s all excellent

So, great drink, excellent food in pleasant surroundings, including plenty of trendy lightbulbs and a genial host.

I can even forgive the fact Abba was being played just once too often on the music system.

Tuesday night is steak night and, of course, its curry on Friday but the standard daily menu also looked appealing.

The screens are in place on the bar as you’d expect, but the welcome from behind them is as warm as you could wish for
The screens are in place on the bar as you’d expect, but the welcome from behind them is as warm as you could wish for

Unfortunately it was as black as your hat outside so sadly I wasn’t able to view the pub garden but I’m reliably informed that is first class too, so all in all a top notch pub.

Finally, for those readers keen to know if man’s best friend is welcome, I’m afraid I’m not too sure – there were no dogs in during my visit and I didn’t spot any signs clarifying things either way.

There were also additional meals available – next time I think I’ll try the chicken and ham pie
There were also additional meals available – next time I think I’ll try the chicken and ham pie
I loved the porthole on the door leading to the toilets and with only one customer allowed at a time it’s functional too
I loved the porthole on the door leading to the toilets and with only one customer allowed at a time it’s functional too

The Malt Shovel – Station Road, Eynsford, near Swanley DA4 0EH

Decor: Painted beams, well upholstered furniture and a surprisingly tasteful carpet. It’s a good mix of rustic charm and fresh, modern design. ****

Drink: I haven’t always been a fan of beers from Tonbridge Brewery, but this pint of Golden Rule was a big step in the right direction. ****

Food: Monday night is Thai night at the Malt Shovel and if it’s all as good as my dish then you’re in for a treat – a really great meal. *****

Price: A pint of Golden Rule will set you back £4.40 and a Kronenbourg costs 10p more. The drunken noodles were an absolute bargain for £8.95.***

Atmosphere: Busy without ever getting overcrowded, this is a pub that attracts punters right across the age range and caters for all. ****

Staff: Top notch service from both Andrew behind the bar and his masked waitress. They were busy and bustling at all times but still found the time for a friendly word and to check everyone was happy. *****

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This is the alleyway at the back which leads to the rear garden – I did venture along it but it became too dark even for me
This is the alleyway at the back which leads to the rear garden – I did venture along it but it became too dark even for me

Tuesday night is steak night but check the price as it looks cheaper on the website
Tuesday night is steak night but check the price as it looks cheaper on the website

As clean and fresh as everything else about the pub, the toilets were immaculate
As clean and fresh as everything else about the pub, the toilets were immaculate

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