The sign on the front wall simply read ‘Open All Day’, which makes a refreshing change when so many pubs are choosing to cut their hours and even their days.
And with its doors thrown wide open the banter from the boys at the bar could clearly be heard from the street and I couldn’t help wandering in.
I was greeted in the Nags Head by a series of rear ends, all perched on bar stools, though to be fair they did turn around politely to see what fresh meat had wandered in off Rochester High Street.
I spotted a couple of offerings from Iron Pier, which is brewed fairly locally, Gravesend to be exact, and was just making up my mind between pale ale and bitter when I was informed the pump clip should have been turned round on the latter.
Decision now made I took my 3.7% Perry Street Pale and a packet of salt and vinegar and sat at a high table just behind the bar. The pint was excellent, plenty of citrus flavour and very moreish, the crisps seemed a little stale but when I checked there were still in date - though only by five days.
I decided not to mention this as the poor barmaid had already struggled enough, not least because some wag had changed the pump clips over and Adam hadn’t yet fixed the drip tray!
A radio station, Absolute I think, was playing some decent tunes in the background, Police, Blondie, Blossoms but it wasn’t loud enough to dominate and you could still hear the locals roundly abusing each other and yourself, in equal measure.
One big fella, sat in the corner slot of the bar, looks like he spends a fair bit of time wedged in this position and reminded me just a little of the character Norm from Cheers, but without the humour.
What I should have mentioned was that the second I bought the crisps and looked like I was even thinking of opening the packet I’d immediately gained a new shadow, and best friend. Jasper the pub dog is fantastic, incredibly well-behaved and remarkably attentive, plus he’ll look lovingly at you for ages, or at least until the crisp packet is empty – at which point he athletically leaps back into position on one of the padded bench seats.
There is a great old wooden bar, which has obviously been in use for years and would have some great stories to tell if only it could speak.
There is a good mixture of tut and decent items dotted about on the walls and I found myself inwardly reminiscing about a time when all boozers had their walls packed with such stuff. There was a large instrument strung up above the jukebox and quite a few album covers dotted about but I wasn’t altogether sure about the significance of the splayed out saddle?
You can tell there is history oozing from the place and ‘Norm’ in the corner had a moment of clarity and shared an interesting fact that the building, built in the 18th century, used to be a police station and there are still some chains somewhere which were used to restrain the prisoners.
The barmaid had now finished her shift but was happy to take a seat on the other side of the bar and join the regulars for a swift drink before heading out – this is another tell-tale sign of a decent boozer and I was really warming to the Nags Head.
Molly the landlady had taken over and, following an altercation with a wasp, she served me a pint of Kronenbourg with a smile and a good deal more efficiency than the barmaid, who despite her lack of speed behind the bar, was also a delight.
There’s plenty of hefty dark wood and not a little brass about the place but it’s also down to earth with rough, stripped floorboards and dusty ice buckets stacked on a high shelf among equally dusty old hops.
There was a TV screen but mercifully it was switched off, a sign informs you the pub team has jurisdiction over the pool table from 7pm on a Tuesday and there’s a modern electronic fruit machine as well as a more old-fashioned example.
The gents certainly fits in with the full-on traditional flavour – white tiled walls and heavy brown tiles on the floor. It was clean and fresh.
If truth be told I was fully intending to pay a visit to the nearby micropub Three Sheets to the Wind as I’d received a recommendation, but I’m delighted to have been waylaid by the Nags Head and its motley selection of chatty, friendly locals.
The pub has two bars, but take my advice and walk a few paces higher up the road as the ‘upper bar’ is far superior to its lower cousin.
Theatre Paul, wearing a natty blue shirt had left, as had Kev and even Jasper had shot down to the lower bar after hearing the rustle of a crisp packet so as I was left with just the man in the corner I too decided it was time I made a move. I think ‘Norm’ was just starting a story about the pub’s resident ghost Aggie and how much she likes his stories!
NAGS HEAD, HIGH STREET, ROCHESTER ME1 1HS
Decor: I loved it. Not flashy, not perfect by any means, but a brilliantly (back to the good old days) adorned pub with plenty of interesting items for the first-time visitor to view. ****
Drink: Iron Pier is usually a very decent pint and the pale ale didn’t disappoint. Maybe it’s a good sign that the bitter had all been drunk, even if the clip hadn’t been turned around. It’s better to do one beer well… the usual lager suspects were available, with Kronie the pick for me. ***
Price: The Iron Pier pale ale, with a packet of crisps cost me £5.40. A pint of Kronenbourg was just under a fiver at £4.90 and if you went for Moretti it would set you back £5.60. ***
Staff: Molly was efficient, friendly and funny, apart from the moment she risked a sting in the tail. The barmaid on shift when I walked in was wonderfully inept but absolutely charming. ****
Catch up on all Secret Drinker's Kent pub reviews here
Click here to follow Secret Drinker on Twitter
Want more Secret Drinker? Sign up here for his monthly newsletter