Published: 06:00, 14 May 2021
| Updated: 16:02, 24 May 2021
Spilling out across the pavement, the front area at the Elephant & Hind in Dover is well suited to take full advantage of the current outdoor drinking restrictions.
Half a dozen hefty, heavily-varnished wooden tables and benches are surrounded by a dozen or so crowd barriers to create a fenced-off paved area in the central market square.
‘The Ellie’ as it’s known locally, has been through a large number of reincarnations across the years and most recently received a grant from the council to ensure its future.
We’d already dodged The Duchess on Bench Street as it wasn’t serving food and even before we’d decided to try the E&H we were loudly welcomed by a small group of friendly, perhaps overly inquisitive, locals who looked as if they’d been camped at one table for some time.
Having checked food was being served and dogs were allowed in, or more accurately, allowed outside, the full household took a seat for Sunday lunch – with the SD hound secured firmly to one of the scaffolding poles holding up the table.
Our hostess was clearly used to most punters ordering one lager or another and ran through a list of about half a dozen before saying Fosters was the most popular. But, when questioned further she mentioned Neck Oil was on tap and this led to a unique moment – never before has Mrs SD, the apprentice and I all ordered the same drink in the same round.
The three Beavertowns didn’t take long to be delivered but this is a perfect spot for people watching and even just a few moments afforded us an incredible selection of ‘very different’ folk passing by.
I’m not sure if he’s local but one fellow observed by my good lady had his trousers so low-slung the totally pointless belt he was wearing was only just above his knees – fortunately his underwear looked intact.
At this point our waitress Sam, identifiable by the name on her pub hoodie, arrived with our drinks. Of course, she didn’t have any clue as to our names so instead called upon the same greetings she uses with her regulars – I started as ‘my darlin’, before becoming ‘my lovely’ and finishing as ‘babe’.
She also shared the fact she’d been woken by thunder earlier that morning but now wished she’d only worn a T-shirt. Isn’t it typical that now it’s finally warm enough to sit outside a pub we’re all allowed back in.
We’d had time to scan the slightly damp menu and ordered a pepperoni pizza, a cheeseburger and a veggie burger – I’m sure you can guess who had what.
The first two both cost £7.99 but, for some reason, the non-meat option, described as a spicy oriental burger, was £3 more. Mrs SD reverted to type by ordering a wine to wash it down but instantly wished she hadn’t.
Although it was busy, the Ellie operated with just one young fellow behind the bar and Sam out front delivering all the drinks and food.
When she presented ours with a cheery ‘here you go my darlings’, she also told us she was going to get the pub’s front doors opened so we could hear the music better – song selection had been remarkably varied and at this point The La’s most famous song was playing but no sooner was it open and we were treated to Frank Sinatra doing it his way.
The toilets are at the back of the bar and during my visit to the gents I was able to take in the pub’s interior which, despite its history, or perhaps because of it, is remarkably contemporary in style.
The bar takes up a large amount of the central area and the rest of the place, apart from the artwork, is fairly minimalist with standing room to both sides.
I saw no sign of anything like darts or pool, although there was a quiz machine and fruitie standing unlit at one side – I’m sure they’ll be back in action just as soon as punters are allowed back in.
The gents themselves didn’t look too bad to me although there was a fair pong around the urinal.
Likewise, whilst the ladies looked okay at a glance Mrs SD said on closer inspection several areas could do with some bleach and elbow grease.
Despite the opportunity for people watching and the Neck Oil I’d still take a fair bit of persuasion to make a return visit to The Ellie but I think it’s important to point out this is in no way any reflection upon our hostess as manager Sam was extremely efficient and a bit of a star.
The Elephant & Hind, 18-19 Market Square, Dover CT16 1NX
Decor: Functional, rather than comfortable but the varnished table would have been easy to wipe down. I’m still not sure why our crash barrier was decorated with plastic vegetation when none of the others were. **
Drink: The Beavertown deserved a 4/5 star rating but the overall score was dragged down dramatically by what was described as ‘by far the worst wine I’ve ever tasted’. **
Price: A pint of Neck Oil costs £5.50 and Moretti is just 10p less. When Mrs SD shifted to her usual tipple, a large white wine, it cost her £8.30. **
Food: The pizza was by far the best meal and looked freshly prepared, the veggie/vegan burger was certainly spicy and tasty, but the cheeseburger was decidedly average at best. ***
Staff: Sam was friendly, cheery and chatty – she is, by far, the best thing about the Elephant & Hind. ****