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Secret Drinker reviews the Kings Arms Hotel in Sandwich


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Now, let’s be fair right from the start, the food we had was good, as were the drinks, but a Saturday evening out in Sandwich didn’t feel like popping out to the pub.

We were last at the Kings Arms Hotel on Stand Street more than a decade ago and on that occasion only got as far as the garden.

The door at the front of the Kings Arms Hotel on Strand Street is no longer used and nor is the door at the side of the restaurant so diners need to use the back door through the car park at the back
The door at the front of the Kings Arms Hotel on Strand Street is no longer used and nor is the door at the side of the restaurant so diners need to use the back door through the car park at the back

We didn’t set foot inside the pub previously, but memories of that summer visit 10 years ago are very pleasant, a lovely garden, decent food and a good few refreshing beverages – there was even a band playing.

This time around, the car park was full in February so we parked opposite the pub in the pay and display by the river.

Gaining entry to the Kings Arms was the first challenge as there’s no front door, in fact there’s not even a side door, you need to go round the back and walk through the car park.

The bar featured a long row of stools facing the pumps but it was hard to imagine anyone just popping in for a pint as the whole place is designed for dining
The bar featured a long row of stools facing the pumps but it was hard to imagine anyone just popping in for a pint as the whole place is designed for dining

Walking past the open kitchen door to the right and the gents on the left we headed further along the corridor beyond the pay phone and into the bar.

The whole place is set up for dining but the bar had a nice log fire burning, with the compulsory dog asleep by the side of it, and a long row of stools in front of the pumps. However, the tables were full in here so we were directed back across the corridor into the dining room.

Walking in here was like stepping back 40 years at least and I was reminded of B&B dining rooms from yesteryear with brasses on the wall and ancient lampshades sitting on wooden stands.

Stepping back in time – the furnishings, with lampshades and brasses on the wall, might remind you of living rooms from a different century
Stepping back in time – the furnishings, with lampshades and brasses on the wall, might remind you of living rooms from a different century

The wallpaper was more up-to-date than the rest of the furnishings and only transported us to the 1970s – those old enough to remember Pulp’s song Disco 2000 will be well aware of the relevant lyric.

There were a couple of beers on tap and, after sampling them, I chose a pint of Adnams Ghost Ship, a 4.5% IPA, over the 4% Harvey’s best bitter.

It was busy with everyone sat obediently at their tables – there is no dartboard, no pool, no drinkers at the bar, no jukebox and certainly no band.

There were two beers available on tap – I selected the Adnams IPA Ghost Ship rather than a pint of Harvey’s
There were two beers available on tap – I selected the Adnams IPA Ghost Ship rather than a pint of Harvey’s

In fact, there’s no music of any sort and you do feel the need to keep your voice down, not that everyone did. It wouldn’t be fair to share some conversations but there was an in-depth debate on the next table about whether milk should be added to tea or vice versa.

The inn can trace its history back to Tudor times and whilst I’m sure my chair wasn’t 500 years old it did creak alarmingly and apart from one brief visit to the toilet I was on my best behaviour and sat very still.

The gents, by the way, are as traditional as everywhere else and well maintained – there was a miniature mirror and an even smaller window.

Like the rest of the place, the gents slot right into the ‘retro’ style. The tiled floors and walls were clean and well presented with everything smelling fresh
Like the rest of the place, the gents slot right into the ‘retro’ style. The tiled floors and walls were clean and well presented with everything smelling fresh

Mrs SD reported the ladies were also well kept – and, they were treated to moisturiser, pot plants and artwork.

The menu was extensive, perhaps a little on the expensive side, and a fair few meals were also 1970s throwbacks. The lightest bite I could find was the scampi, which was really good, and Mrs SD went bangers and mash.

We were served by the mother and daughter team with the daughter taking the lead role.

I chose the scampi, fries and salad from the snacks/light bites section of the menu for £12.95
I chose the scampi, fries and salad from the snacks/light bites section of the menu for £12.95
Mrs SD chose an old favourite from the menu and opted for sausage and mash with onion gravy for £13.95
Mrs SD chose an old favourite from the menu and opted for sausage and mash with onion gravy for £13.95

There was something a little Acorn Antiques about the whole event with them first blaming the ‘stupid doors’ for bumping into each other and then scaring each other.

The electric fire had been turned off not long after we arrived but several diners were still in their jackets and one requested it was switched back on. Sadly the chilly, somewhat stilted and fairly boring atmosphere wasn’t going to be enlivened by simply raising the temperature a notch or two.

Before we shared a pud, a New York style cheesecake (well I did get a bite!) I ordered a Warsteiner pilsner and this German lager, also on tap, was another good pint.

I said I should take a picture of the New York style cheesecake before it was sampled, but as you will see, someone was not waiting to take the first bite
I said I should take a picture of the New York style cheesecake before it was sampled, but as you will see, someone was not waiting to take the first bite

The sweet was also tasty but again a tad pricey.

The confusion continued as Mrs SD settled the tab – she told mum what we’d had and the food totalled up fine, but despite explaining what we’d drunk several times I’m sure we must have been undercharged.

During the chat mum also revealed she’d worked here for more than 15 years so she was probably around last time we were in - if anything time has stood still and our original visit was probably better.

If traditional is your thing then this could be for you, if you enjoy a real time warp then it definitely is.

The food’s good, if a little expensive for what it is, and the drink’s absolutely fine, the staff are also friendly but confusion can reign in this pub that time forgot.

There’s a lit courtyard area at the back of the hotel but, unsurprisingly, on a chilly February evening it wasn’t used by anyone other than smokers
There’s a lit courtyard area at the back of the hotel but, unsurprisingly, on a chilly February evening it wasn’t used by anyone other than smokers
It might have been selected to fit in with the size of the rest of the tiles but you’re not going to see much in this mini mirror in the gents
It might have been selected to fit in with the size of the rest of the tiles but you’re not going to see much in this mini mirror in the gents

Kings Arms Hotel, 65 Strand Street, Sandwich CT13 9HN

Decor: From the place mats to my squeaky chair and everything in between the whole place is firmly locked into the middle of last century. Looking around the Kings Arms it is favoured by folk who might remember such furnishings fondly. **

Drink: A couple of decent beers available, I chose the Adnams IPA over Harvey’s Best but they were both well kept. It’s also good to find a different lager on tap and I enjoyed the German Warsteiner pilsner. ****

Price: The scampi and chips was £12.95 and the sausage and mash £13.95. A pudding will cost you £6.95 and an espresso coffee £2.50. Unfortunately there was some confusion regarding the price of the drinks so I’m not able to report these. **

Staff: Friendly and helpful but it somehow felt you were never more than a few minutes away from the next calamity. If chaotic time travel’s your thing you’ll love it. ****

Unlike Mrs SD (just about always a large Sauvignon Blanc) I’m happy to try something a little bit different – German lager Warsteiner was on tap and is a refreshing, well balanced, pale golden pilsner.
Unlike Mrs SD (just about always a large Sauvignon Blanc) I’m happy to try something a little bit different – German lager Warsteiner was on tap and is a refreshing, well balanced, pale golden pilsner.

Mrs SD’s shot of the ladies loo perfectly demonstrates the contrast with the gents – no artwork, pot plants or moisturiser for the men
Mrs SD’s shot of the ladies loo perfectly demonstrates the contrast with the gents – no artwork, pot plants or moisturiser for the men

Fortunately the quality of the log fire in the bar was a lot better than my photographic skills, unfortunately there was no room left in the bar and we were placed in the dining room from a time gone by
Fortunately the quality of the log fire in the bar was a lot better than my photographic skills, unfortunately there was no room left in the bar and we were placed in the dining room from a time gone by

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