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Secret Drinker reviews the Walmer Castle pub in Deal


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Even in the fading Deal twilight there’s no missing the Walmer Castle on South Street – it’s about as bright red as you can get and, even if you’re colour blind in the extreme, the music being pumped into the side garden will knock your socks off.

I walked through the front door and turned left, finding myself in a small, hugely over-decorated room which, apart from a mass of furniture and furnishings, was completely empty.

You won’t miss this one – the Walmer Castle on South Street in Deal reckons you should be painting the town red
You won’t miss this one – the Walmer Castle on South Street in Deal reckons you should be painting the town red

Barman Ray was with me in a flash, seemingly happy to have something to do, and I ordered the only beer he had on tap.

But, feeling lonely and over-powered by frippery, I retraced my steps into the bigger bar on the right hand side of the pub where, in the dim lighting, I could just about identify three other human beings camouflaged among the decorations.

The music being belted out in the garden was also being played in here, not at quite such a high volume, but the choice of tunes was excellent.

The garden area was empty on Sunday evening when I arrived, but music was still being pumped out at a fairly high volume
The garden area was empty on Sunday evening when I arrived, but music was still being pumped out at a fairly high volume

But, the beer, a pint of Young’s London Original, was as bland as it’s possible to be. The first half pint was tasteless, pointless and unsatisfying, the second half was the same but a fraction warmer.

Bang A Gong, the version by U2 with Elton John, had given way to The Jam’s A Town Called Malice, followed by Blondie, Hanging on the Telephone. If they hadn’t managed to capture my era of music so perfectly I might not have hung around myself.

They must have had some red paint left over from the front as the ceiling is the same colour – but in here, combined with blue lights behind the bar and a mass of semi-powered trendy lightbulbs, makes the bar incredibly dark and, with so few folk in, it felt a bit dreary.

It was still light outside, but a heavy wooden floor, blue lighting and trendy lightbulbs made the inside of the bar incredibly dark
It was still light outside, but a heavy wooden floor, blue lighting and trendy lightbulbs made the inside of the bar incredibly dark

Pub boss Brendan was sitting with a mate at the table in the window when I came in but they soon scurried off, back into the light and the customer count, apart from me, dropped to one.

There were three TV screens up over the bar, but it was a sport-free Sunday evening so they were in darkness too.

A young lad walked through the front door but he wasn’t a customer and simply asked permission to use the toilet so Ray pointed him in the right direction.

The lighting wasn’t the best for photographs, but my pint of Young’s London Original still looked a good deal better than it tasted
The lighting wasn’t the best for photographs, but my pint of Young’s London Original still looked a good deal better than it tasted

Now the boss had departed, the barman began plotting his own escape and started by getting on the phone to order two takeaway pancake rolls. Fortunately for him the next person into the pub was its manager, or as he described himself ‘the manager in name only’.

After a short story about a lady who came into the bar at 4pm and, by the time she left at 6pm, was incapable of standing up, Ray had persuaded the ‘would-be manager’, who reminded me a little of actor Mackenzie Crook, to take over the end of his shift.

Pulp’s Common People was next on the playlist so I decided to stay for one more and tried a 61 Deep – a pale ale from Marston’s Brewery. Oh dear, not much depth to it at all, perhaps a slight improvement on the Young’s, but not much.

It was a bit gloomy at my end of the bar when I took this shot but hopefully you can make out this striking fellow who only just about gave me enough room to put down my pint
It was a bit gloomy at my end of the bar when I took this shot but hopefully you can make out this striking fellow who only just about gave me enough room to put down my pint

No sooner had Ray shot out the door there was a sudden influx of late customers, about a dozen young folk, several carrying instruments on their shoulders.

They’d been playing a gig at the nearby Smugglers Record Shop and popped in for last orders – they were like a breath of fresh air and certainly livened the place up, though the age gap was confirmed when they asked who was singing the next song and I was able to inform them it was Gary Numan.

I began feeling it was time to leave myself and paid a pre-departure visit to the gents. These, despite being painted a fairly dark green, were lighter than elsewhere in the pub, giving you the opportunity to a) see what you’re doing and b) appreciate the artwork.

They were fresh, clean and very well kept.

It might have a dark green ceiling, but at least there is enough light in the toilets to see what you’re doing and appreciate the gold mirror and foliage
It might have a dark green ceiling, but at least there is enough light in the toilets to see what you’re doing and appreciate the gold mirror and foliage

Back in the bar the only bad song of the night joined the playlist, Hey, Hey Rise Up by Pink Floyd, and my feeling it was time to go was confirmed.

For the vast majority of my visit the pub was about as lively as the lifeless beer and most folk seemed desperate to leave the Walmer Castle as fast as possible.

Fortunately the last 10 minutes or so left me with hope this incredibly dark, bizarrely decorated boozer is able to lift itself from the gloom occasionally and produce the type of atmosphere which might just match its playlist.

I saw Mackenzie Crook outside on the pavement as I left and he was busying himself getting ready for closing – he might describe himself as ‘manager in name only’ but at least he was doing some work and actually seemed pleased to work here.

Proud of the live music it hosts, the Walmer Castle has a jazz band playing every Saturday at 5pm and a selection of other duos, trios and groups
Proud of the live music it hosts, the Walmer Castle has a jazz band playing every Saturday at 5pm and a selection of other duos, trios and groups

Walmer Castle, 4 South Street, Deal CT14 7AW

Decor: It’s difficult to say whether thought has been given to the fixtures and fittings or whether everything has just been thrown together to look a bit like an old Indian restaurant, either way it is far, far too dark. **

Drink: I can’t recommend either the Young’s London Original (3.7%) or the 61 Deep pale ale from Marston’s (3.8%). Both totally unremarkable, at best they were wishy-washy. *

Price: Everything I saw or sampled was priced the wrong side of a fiver. The 61 Deep was £5.50 and the Young’s London Original £5.10. If you decide to play safe with a Stella it will also cost you £5.50 a pint. **

Staff: Boss Brendan appeared keen to get away and it wasn’t long before Ray the barman followed him through the door. They left the new ‘manager in name only’ to hold the fort and, presumably, close up. **

I decided to try a pint of 61 Deep, a 3.8% pale ale from Marston’s Brewery. Perhaps just slightly better than the Young’s, it certainly doesn’t have much depth to it.
I decided to try a pint of 61 Deep, a 3.8% pale ale from Marston’s Brewery. Perhaps just slightly better than the Young’s, it certainly doesn’t have much depth to it.

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