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Secret Drinker reviews the White Hart pub in Newenden, near Cranbrook


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Sitting right on the border of Kent in the most fantastic pub garden, I chose the most locally brewed beer possible - even though it came from another county.

The White Hart in Newenden is within spitting distance of the River Rother, the natural boundary dividing Kent and East Sussex, but the RVBC Brewery, (Rother Valley Brewing Company) which the barmen assured me is only 600 yards away, sits on the other side of the water.

Sitting on the main road, just yards from the River Rother, the White Hart in Newenden is about as close to the Kent/Sussex boundary as it’s possible to be
Sitting on the main road, just yards from the River Rother, the White Hart in Newenden is about as close to the Kent/Sussex boundary as it’s possible to be

The garden is superbly maintained with a whole row of what looked like stables down the right hand side. Closer inspection confirmed they were indeed designed to look like stables but they are indoor drinking areas, each one named after a famous racehorse. These do need to be reserved but there is no charge for securing your own private equine area.

It’s a big garden and, at the far end, there is a large section given over to kids - it also has the most fantastic views across the neighbouring countryside.

The pub’s owners obviously work hard on maintaining its appearance and during our visit well-endowed hanging baskets were being installed every six feet or so along the front and side of this picturesque boozer.

On hot summer days the garden bar serves the vast majority of people without them ever needing to go into the pub
On hot summer days the garden bar serves the vast majority of people without them ever needing to go into the pub

It was a scorching hot day and we made good use of a Fosters umbrella, indeed I would go as far as to say, given the 30 degree reading from the temperature gauge on the wall, it’s the one and only time I’ve be grateful for the existence of the amber nectar.

The garden has its own purpose-built bar, a stack of seating and a lovely relaxed atmosphere – unfortunately, the day we were in you did occasionally get a little waft of a sewage smell when the wind was in the wrong direction which did take the edge off the otherwise idyllic setting.

There was plenty of choice at the bar but I prefer to sample local brews when I get the chance and Level Best (4%) from the Rother Valley Brewing Company was a very decent drop with plenty of taste. A golden beer I found it had a fruity flavour which really lingered.

Views from the bottom of the garden, across the neighbouring countryside into East Sussex, are spectacular
Views from the bottom of the garden, across the neighbouring countryside into East Sussex, are spectacular

Mrs SD stuck to the Sauvignon Blanc and, although I’m sure it isn’t her intention, might reignite the wine debate.

Much to her consternation, waiter Ben delivered a glass containing just 175ml of the New Zealand variety. Questioned further he was candid enough to admit they only offer medium and small measures as the owner has discovered it makes better ‘financial sense’.

I was hoping Mrs SD, a strong believer in one size fits all (and that size is 250ml), might adapt her drinking speed but it was never likely and the mediums disappeared at a rapid rate – it seems the owner’s money-making logic stacks up. The wine though, was very palatable and definitely passed muster.

The beer, which couldn’t be more local, comes in a standard pint glass – I’m sure halves are also available. However, the largest wine available is 175ml
The beer, which couldn’t be more local, comes in a standard pint glass – I’m sure halves are also available. However, the largest wine available is 175ml

My bitter, costing a mere £3.90 and coming in the established measure was never going to be contentious.

We decided to take a light lunch and ordered a variety of items from the extensive menu.

I was won over immediately by the locally-grown asparagus, wrapped in parma ham and cooked in garlic butter – it melted in the mouth.

We shared a garlic bread with mozzarella and Mrs SD declared the items on her pizza as the three most ideal toppings ever invented for a lump of sourdough. Overall the food was very fresh and very tasty.

Mrs SD reckons the three ingredients on her sourdough pizza, mushroom, garlic and Gorgonzola are just about her ideal choice – however, being the heathen she is, she did say adding sweetcorn would create perfection
Mrs SD reckons the three ingredients on her sourdough pizza, mushroom, garlic and Gorgonzola are just about her ideal choice – however, being the heathen she is, she did say adding sweetcorn would create perfection
Local asparagus wrapped in Parma ham and cooked in garlic butter - absolutely delicious
Local asparagus wrapped in Parma ham and cooked in garlic butter - absolutely delicious

This is a popular place with walkers and is clearly a favoured stopping off spot for a number of ramblers clubs. One such group, with a fellow who looked remarkably like Crocodile Dundee, took control of a large central table and took off their socks to compare blisters.

There was a complete mix of age groups in when we visited and I also noted a high percentage of hairy hounds so maybe the SD mutt will get lucky next time.

And, talking of wacky beasts, I couldn’t help but notice the delightfully rusty and askew patio heater which looked as if it might have been run over – does anyone remember Fender from Robots?

I doubt it’s still operational, but this old patio heater caught my eye – it reminded me of that great film Robots
I doubt it’s still operational, but this old patio heater caught my eye – it reminded me of that great film Robots

But, a final mention must be reserved for another slightly offbeat character who features in a photo hung in the side bar.

This genial-looking guy, pictured with a pint and a Sunday roast, is welcoming punters with a ‘traditional’ two-handed, two-fingered salute. Then, just to enforce the message the first thing you see in the garden is a tree mirroring the welcome.

Whatever you do, don’t be put off, it’s all in good fun and you’ll be hard pushed to find a more welcoming pub.

Six of the best, designed to look like stables, these individual seating areas are all named after famous racehorses
Six of the best, designed to look like stables, these individual seating areas are all named after famous racehorses
Desert Orchid is one of the six indoor seating areas which you and your family or friends can reserve. Each area has a slightly different seating arrangement and several are set up to seat six
Desert Orchid is one of the six indoor seating areas which you and your family or friends can reserve. Each area has a slightly different seating arrangement and several are set up to seat six
Very few folks chose to sit inside on such a warm day, but there is a large dining area on the right hand side of the pub
Very few folks chose to sit inside on such a warm day, but there is a large dining area on the right hand side of the pub
A light-hearted welcome to the White Hart, I spotted this framed photograph hung in the side bar, a cheeky greeting – unless of course he was ordering four more pints!
A light-hearted welcome to the White Hart, I spotted this framed photograph hung in the side bar, a cheeky greeting – unless of course he was ordering four more pints!

The White Hart, Rye Road, Newenden, Cranbrook TN18 5PN

Decor: The pub is packed full of character both inside and out with plenty of fascinating features. Though on a warm day the garden is definitely where you want to be. ****

Drink: The NZ Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and fruity. The Level Best is a decent golden bitter with plenty of flavour and a lingering citrus aftertaste. ***

Price: The bitter was just £3.90 a pint. If you go for lager instead then a Peroni will set you back a smidgeon over a fiver. The Sav Blanc would work out as £9.14 for a large – if you were able to buy one! ***

Food: Delivered in good time, the food was all freshly cooked, beautifully presented and very tasty. ****

Staff: Very polite and attentive, the staff were all very pleasant. Despite being fairly busy they still found the odd moment to chat. ****

Traditional old wooden cellar doors at the front of the pub look as if they are still used regularly
Traditional old wooden cellar doors at the front of the pub look as if they are still used regularly
The bottom end of the pub garden has been turned over to the kids with swings, a climbing frame and other games
The bottom end of the pub garden has been turned over to the kids with swings, a climbing frame and other games
Superbly maintained and spotlessly clean, the gents were definitely included in the last makeover
Superbly maintained and spotlessly clean, the gents were definitely included in the last makeover

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