Published: 05:00, 03 December 2021
| Updated: 11:14, 03 December 2021
The M2 near Medway was closed for six hours so traffic was reduced to a snail’s pace and after sitting in queues for almost three hours I was ready to stop and take a break just about anywhere.
Just about anywhere turned out to be the Tiger Moth where, somewhat ironically, given the nose-to-tail gridlock on the Maidstone Road, I was charged £1 for the privilege of parking before I even got through the door.
However, my spirits were boosted quickly as Christmas had come early to this part of Chatham and one of the better things offered by Greene King, the festive 4.2% Rocking Rudolph, was on tap.
Arriving fractionally ahead of three guys dressed head-to-toe in fluorescent orange hi-vis, the larger than life barmaid served everyone in order, whether a local or a visitor, with a cheery ‘Y’alright babe?’.
In between pulling my pint and taking my cash she donned a fully-baubled festive headdress from the selection available in a box on the bar. I politely declined her invitation to choose myself a similarly lairy item of headgear.
Mrs SD had been gamely helping me out all day and being busy beavers we’d missed lunch so not knowing how long we’d still be on the road we decided to grab a bite.
For some inexplicable reason there were reserved signs on most tables but we managed to find a free space on a table near the door. I say inexplicable because during our stay the majority of tables with a sign remained empty.
This being Thursday it was BOGOF on burgers so we settled for that. The menu was firmly glued to the table but Mrs SD soon had it prised off and, as is her wont, grabbed a fistful of napkins to wipe down. Having unstuck the pages we chose one flame-grilled cheese and bacon burger and one all-American chicken burger, agreeing to share them equally – £7.99 the pair.
The burgers arrived almost as quickly as Christmas and were both pretty reasonable. The chicken probably shaded it and the fries were hotter on one plate than the other but the onion rings were fried to perfection.
I’m delighted to say entertainment is provided while you eat and we were first treated to a management shift handover at the bar followed by the new manageress pulling crystals from her bra to show other members of staff why she is so well protected against the slings and arrows of life – questioned on the crystal total she counted up to nine – now that’s serious protection to keep in your bra.
Burgers almost dispatched, she approached us to check that the food was to our satisfaction and to apologise: “All okay here? Sorry I couldn’t get to you earlier darlings.”
Much of the inside of this Greene King boozer is as you’d expect. It’s mostly set for diners although you would probably be allowed to sit at a table briefly if you just want a pint.
The dartboard is hemmed in with tables and doesn’t look as if it’s used too often. I think there used to be a pool table once but that’s long gone. There are at least four large flashing electronic fruit machines and, of course, a decent sized screen to show Sky Sports News on silent.
A selection of even brighter fluorescent yellow jackets were now competing with the full-on orange one at the bar and, for a while, the combination of the two sets were brighter even than the fruities.
The gents had missed out on a few hourly inspections and it was more than a little smelly – it could definitely have done with being checked. I spotted a full menu for the sport due to be played over the next six days – wish I’d had a pound on the correct score in the England v Latvia game.
The music was already festive though I didn’t recognise the song What Christmas Means To Me and it was Mrs SD who proudly piped up that it was an ancient Paul Young number (not sure I’d have been so proud to spot that one).
We ordered a pair of puds and, whilst waiting for them to arrive, I took in the surroundings.
There is an absolute stack of CCTV cameras all over the bar, which is often a sure sign there’s been trouble of some sort in the past to suggest they’ll be needed again. There is also one of those grabber machines near the door and when I spotted this I realised what the Tiger Moth reminded me of – it’s one of those cheap and cheerful campsite clubhouses.
After waiting half an hour for a lotus biscoff cheesecake and a bakewell tart I chased them up and got a message back from the kitchen that the cheesecake was still frozen solid and therefore not available. Sure enough the other sweet arrived in seconds and, served hot with ice cream, it was very good.
By the time we left, at around 6.30pm, it was just starting to get busier and a few of the reserved tables were taken, but nowhere near enough to justify a half-hour wait for a frozen pud – although the barmaid did change her lingo for pudding and started calling me 'sweetie'.
Fortunately the extra wait meant the traffic had finally cleared a little so we headed outside and left the Tiger’s regulars to continue their early festive celebrations.
Tiger Moth, Highview Drive, Chatham ME5 9UJ
Decor: Christmas has arrived to brighten the place but there are a few shabby, not quite so chic areas that could do with a bit of touching up. And, the tables would definitely benefit from a wipe down. **
Drink: I am partial to a yuletide 4.2% Rocking Rudolph – Mrs SD said the Ara Marlborough was a decent Sav Blanc and, for the price, rated it pretty highly. ****
Food: The burgers were exactly what you’d expect and the fries/onion rings they came with were pretty good. When it finally arrived the bakewell tart with ice cream was the best part of the meal. ***
Price: The BOGOF deal meant a pair of burgers was just £7.99 and the one pud available was £4.69. A pint of Rudolph sets you back £4.10 and a large wine is £5.99 – though I have noticed (albeit too late) we were charged for three, when Mrs SD only quaffed two. You do get the parking fee back, if you remember to hand the receipt in! ***
Staff: Chirpy and down-to-earth. The staff are taken away from the bar a fair bit in order to wait tables but they were generally upbeat and keen to please. ***
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