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Secret Drinker reviews Greene King's Black Bull pub in Canterbury Road, Folkestone


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Like some football games, this is a pub of two halves and was catering both for workers knocking off early for the weekend and families keen to fuel up their offspring.

The Black Bull in Canterbury Road, Folkestone, is a large lump of a pub with a stack of space and plenty of tables but it was pretty busy and bustling by 3.30pm on a Friday.

The three-storey Black Bull in Folkestone is a big pub with an equally large garden and an even bigger car park
The three-storey Black Bull in Folkestone is a big pub with an equally large garden and an even bigger car park

The language flowing freely from the over-18 section of the bar was fruitier even than the ciders on offer, but the steady flow of primary school kids were far too interested in getting their hands on the gut-busting dishes on the menu to take any notice.

This is one of Greene King’s 270 Hungry Horses dotted around the country and it’s safe to say the meals at many of these pubs seem to target quantity over quality.

The pub is colourfully decorated as, by their own admission, the bar staff cannot be bothered to take down the flags they put up for the Euros – it might be best not to bother now and just add some extras for the World Cup in November.

In pride of place at the front of the pub, the pool table might not have been in use while we were in but regulars reckon it sees plenty of action
In pride of place at the front of the pub, the pool table might not have been in use while we were in but regulars reckon it sees plenty of action
A solid decked area with steps leads down from the back of the pub to a large slabbed and grassed garden area
A solid decked area with steps leads down from the back of the pub to a large slabbed and grassed garden area

Mrs SD had her thirsty head on and enjoys the occasional beer like a Neck Oil or a Camden so decided to try a pint of GK’s own 3.6% IPA but quickly decided she’d made a bad decision. I’d made a slightly better choice with the fruitier, more flavoursome, 5% Abbot Ale and declined her kind offer to swap.

In fact, the IPA was such a weak choice neither she, or I, chose to finish it – and believe me, we don’t often leave beer.

There were no seats left in the over-18 area but we managed to get a table in ‘no man’s land’ between the ever-growing crèche in the dining area and the army of blokes who’d taken over the age-restricted front bar.

Once school was out the tables in the dining area were mainly taken by families with young children
Once school was out the tables in the dining area were mainly taken by families with young children
Nestled between a very weak Greene King IPA and Abbot Ale, a slightly better bitter, you’ll find two of Lilley’s ciders
Nestled between a very weak Greene King IPA and Abbot Ale, a slightly better bitter, you’ll find two of Lilley’s ciders

A team of Ninjas, all dressed head-to-toe in black, and all with pulled back hair, were on hand fairly quickly so waiting at the bar was kept to a minimum.

There is a pool table (free to play on a Monday) and a dartboard at the front of the pub and masses of TV screens, I stopped counting at seven, all round the pub and all showing totally pointless programmes which absolutely no-one had the slightest interest in.

I also spotted some sort of blackboard spinning wheel game behind the bar which was installed to encourage charity donations.

Not a pleasant experience, it’s very rare Mrs SD fails to finish a drink but she reckons she did well to battle her way through this pint.
Not a pleasant experience, it’s very rare Mrs SD fails to finish a drink but she reckons she did well to battle her way through this pint.

I asked to have a go but was informed it hadn’t been used since the start of Covid.

Have you noticed how often Covid is now being used as an excuse for not doing something people can’t be bothered with? However, the multitude of electronic fruit machines are clearly Covid safe and always have been.

Back at the bar, and having not been impressed by the beer quaffed to date, I surprised myself by sampling the two fruit ciders on tap and marginally preferred Lilley’s mango over her rhubarb variety.

Punters are encouraged to spin the Black Bull wheel to raise much needed funds for charity. Or at least, they were prior to Covid – although no staff were clear why the pandemic had forced it out of action.
Punters are encouraged to spin the Black Bull wheel to raise much needed funds for charity. Or at least, they were prior to Covid – although no staff were clear why the pandemic had forced it out of action.

This 4% fruity pint was served with ice and a slice of orange. It is sticky and sweet and I certainly wouldn’t stretch to a second, but I could see myself repeating the experience if, and when, summer finally arrives.

It’s possible that whoever sat at our table previously also sampled the cider as it was so sticky our glasses were stuck solid.

Rather than constantly pestering us to ask if we would be eating it would have been a nice idea for a serving ninja to whip out a cloth and wipe it down.

The gents were a little pongy and there had been some sort of incident which not only necessitated closing both cubicles but also boarding them up.

The polite request not to use the central urinal is presumably due to Covid precautions rather than the result of a leak
The polite request not to use the central urinal is presumably due to Covid precautions rather than the result of a leak
Staff were not aware what had happened in the gents which led to the need to cordon off both toilet cubicles
Staff were not aware what had happened in the gents which led to the need to cordon off both toilet cubicles

Greene King’s Hungry Horse brand is clearly aimed at the pile it high food market and although we didn’t eat just scanning the menu left us feeling a little queasy – some options might offer great value but they also look absurdly large.

You’re encouraged to ‘go large’ with the drink too, there’s even a poster on the wall advertising a special two pint option.

The place is clearly a popular choice in the local area and it’s good to see a pub busy and thriving, especially early in the day, but I have to be honest and say it isn’t one I’ll be rushing back to.

Taking a leaf out of McDonald’s book, Greene King is encouraging its customers to upgrade and go large with a two pint serving
Taking a leaf out of McDonald’s book, Greene King is encouraging its customers to upgrade and go large with a two pint serving

Black Bull, Canterbury Road, Folkestone CT19 5NX

Decor: Functional but a little shabby in a few areas, this one could do with a thorough makeover. It would also be good if the tables could be wiped occasionally. **

Drink: The Abbot Ale, 5%, was okay but the 3.6% IPA was dreadful, completely tasteless and lifeless. The cider was an improvement but it’s a place where you’re better playing safe with a lager. **

Price: The food costs are low, so feeding a family is cheap and the terrible IPA was only £3.10, but Lilley’s mango cider costs £4.75 and a San Miguel is £4.15. A large glass of white wine was £6.19. ***

Staff: A small army of ninjas, three covering the bar and at least another three waiting tables, so plenty of them, but there wasn’t a lot of initiative being shown. When approached they were helpful enough. **

A table has been set aside, presumably so customers can serve themselves tea or coffee without the need to bother staff but no-one went near it while we were in.
A table has been set aside, presumably so customers can serve themselves tea or coffee without the need to bother staff but no-one went near it while we were in.

There is a large car park at the side and rear of the pub – but there are also more spaces at the front too
There is a large car park at the side and rear of the pub – but there are also more spaces at the front too
Not rating the IPA or even the Abbot Ale particularly I decided to go off piste slightly with a pint of Lilley’s mango cider – it was served with ice and a slice of orange.
Not rating the IPA or even the Abbot Ale particularly I decided to go off piste slightly with a pint of Lilley’s mango cider – it was served with ice and a slice of orange.

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