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Secret Drinker reviews the Black Robin pub in Kingston, Canterbury


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I’d been out doing some real work for a change and, even more remarkable, Mrs SD had been helping me with the heavy lifting.

And, given it was a Sunday morning, I felt it only fair to reward my labourer with a tasty treat so kept my eyes peeled for a suitable lunchtime watering hole.

The Black Robin might sit right on the roadside in Kingston, but it could also be a hidden gem
The Black Robin might sit right on the roadside in Kingston, but it could also be a hidden gem

When The Black Robin in Kingston, near Canterbury, hoved into view just as the clock ticked to one second past midday I knew I’d found the right place.

Through the door and at the bar before five past, we were certainly the first ones in and were able to pick the prime spot – two small armchairs right by the open fire.

Standing at the bar taking in the scene and deciding what to drink I was reminded of a comment left on an SD review by ‘Homerhammer’ requesting I unearth a ‘hidden gem’ and I wondered if this might be it?

First through the door at bang on midday on Sunday, we had the pick of the seats and selected two small armchairs right in front of the open log fire
First through the door at bang on midday on Sunday, we had the pick of the seats and selected two small armchairs right in front of the open log fire

Okay it’s right on the roadside and I spotted it no problem, but how many folks usually drive this way and are lucky enough to sample the delights offered by an inn which can trace its history back to 1741.

I selected a Mad Goose IPA but sadly as the barmaid started to pour the pint only water came through the pipes and she apologised the gas had not been switched on. Never one to dwell on a disappointment for too long, I shifted allegiance immediately and ordered a pint of Gadds' No 5 instead.

However, hard-working Mrs SD was in better luck and when it came to her reward a large New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was a no-brainer. She reckons the superbly chilled wine was great, but I think my beer was even better.

The gas to the Mad Goose had not been connected so I had to choose between The Gadds No 5 and Otter Bitter – I selected the former and can report it was an excellent choice
The gas to the Mad Goose had not been connected so I had to choose between The Gadds No 5 and Otter Bitter – I selected the former and can report it was an excellent choice

I grabbed a menu in anticipation on the way back to my seat but, apparently, it’s impossible to eat a Sunday roast in scruffy, work clothes – clearly a major difference between men and women. Recognising when an argument is lost I ran my eye over the sandwich/snack board on the bar, and, they even had a separate pie menu (more than anything Mrs SD does love a pie).

Unfortunately, as the name suggests, it is Sunday roasts only on the Lord’s Day and the very tempting sandwiches, along with the pies, weren’t available.

To console myself that I wasn’t, on this visit anyway, going to be able to sample the food, I bought another pint and returned to the perfect spot, next to Mrs SD in front of the fire.

Traditional with wooden stools and hops hung from the ceiling, the side bar was empty when we arrived at exactly midday but it was soon buzzing
Traditional with wooden stools and hops hung from the ceiling, the side bar was empty when we arrived at exactly midday but it was soon buzzing

By now we’d been joined by a few other folk, the first proudly wearing a James T-shirt who informed me he’d seen the band some 35 times.

I can’t compete with that level of fanaticism but I have seen them several times and once got to interview Tim Booth for over an hour – a truly fascinating and fantastic human being.

Next in were a couple and the gent was clearly intent upon impressing his date and demonstrating he’d brought her to the best possible pub.

The dining room, with a full expanse of exposed beams and a recently fired-up log burner, was empty when we first walked in but by the time we left it was filling up fast and the pub was fully booked for Sunday lunch
The dining room, with a full expanse of exposed beams and a recently fired-up log burner, was empty when we first walked in but by the time we left it was filling up fast and the pub was fully booked for Sunday lunch

He proudly told her: “You’re going to love this place, Tom took it over a little while ago and it’s really come on since then.

“It’s the best pub you’ll find for miles around bar none.”

Coincidentally a moment later Tom himself entered the bar and was congratulated on his stewardship. He confirmed things were going well and the pub had been incredibly busy for February.

I decided it was time to briefly leave my favourite seat by the fire and take a look round the Black Robin to see if it lives up to this high praise.

I was impressed by the sandwich menu but unfortunately it is roasts only on Sunday and as Mrs SD didn’t feel dressed for a full lunch we weren’t able to stay and eat
I was impressed by the sandwich menu but unfortunately it is roasts only on Sunday and as Mrs SD didn’t feel dressed for a full lunch we weren’t able to stay and eat

I can report the dining room looks wonderful with a stack of beams and a roaring log burner at the far end. The side bar too is extremely welcoming and full of charm. There’s a dartboard in here and the barmaid told me it is used fairly often, though I wouldn’t recommend sitting in the pew-style seat when it’s in action.

I also spotted some great old pictures of the inn and a potted history of how it obtained its unusual name. I do hope there is no danger of the political correctness madness, like that which forced the producers of ‘midget gem’ sweets to change their name.

You will find the full history on the pub’s website here.

The barmaid said the dartboard is used regularly but I wouldn’t fancy sitting in the seat below while a game took place – I’m sure it is moved on match day
The barmaid said the dartboard is used regularly but I wouldn’t fancy sitting in the seat below while a game took place – I’m sure it is moved on match day

Actually, while I’m on the subject of being PC I must mention the sign by the fire which reads: ‘Put another log on the fire for me’.

Have you noticed how many pubs discourage customers from putting anything on the fire? Here you’re trusted and actively encouraged to keep the fire burning brightly – how refreshing.

It was a great shame we didn’t get the chance to dine this time but the best recommendation I can give is to tell you I’ll be back to sample a Sunday roast very, very soon.

There is a spacious and inviting seating area at the rear of the pub with some seating undercover
There is a spacious and inviting seating area at the rear of the pub with some seating undercover

The Black Robin, Covet Lane, Kingston, Canterbury CT4 6HS

Decor: There is hardly anything in the pub that is on the level, everything is beautifully out of whack and is therefore perfect. Maybe I was lucky to get the best seat in the house but I’d have happily sat anywhere. *****

Drink: There was a good selection of drinks available and the Gadds was a great pint. Mrs SD really rated the NZ Sav Blanc, but I have to drop one star for the lack of Mad Goose gas. ****

Price: I would have loved to sample the Sunday roast and felt the menu looked very reasonable – I will have to return. The Gadds' No5 was £4.20 a pint and a large glass of Ngaru Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc £7.95 ***

Staff: Chatty, bubbly, helpful and highly professional, all the staff, ably marshalled by Tom, were welcoming and efficient. They were also apologetic about the gas to the IPA and promised it will be back on next time we visit. *****

The gents, like everywhere else in the pub, is beautifully presented and maintained to perfection
The gents, like everywhere else in the pub, is beautifully presented and maintained to perfection
I really liked the look of the roasts on the main menu but will have to wait for a return visit to the Black Robin, when we’re in our Sunday best, to sample the food
I really liked the look of the roasts on the main menu but will have to wait for a return visit to the Black Robin, when we’re in our Sunday best, to sample the food

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