Published: 17:00, 17 February 2022
| Updated: 09:49, 18 February 2022
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. **
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