The last time I was in this pub I challenged a young SD apprentice to a frame on the purple baize pool table before hurriedly ushering him out when two oiled-up fellows started slobbering over each other on a makeshift stage.
I noticed the name is now the Coach House and wondered what else might have changed at this Maidstone boozer on Sittingbourne Road that was once a gay bar.
Greeted by two very friendly, hefty British Bulldogs with diamante encrusted collars, just for a second I thought I was back in the old Queen Anne.
Landlord Steve quickly marshalled his hounds and directed us to table 1 at the front of the pub and, having gone through the necessary preliminaries required these days, took our orders. Real ale on tap wasn’t available as there hasn’t been sufficient demand since coronavirus to justify stocking it. Instead he recommended, and offered me a taste of, the Shipyard IPA. This 5% American pale ale had plenty of fruity flavour and passed the test so I instructed him to pour away.
By now Bulldog #1, Stanley, had reclaimed his position in front of the attractive, and very warm, log burner whilst #2 had just about managed to hop onto a wing chair.
There was a good crowd of folks in and whilst everyone maintained the correct distance at their own tables it was really good to see plenty of discussion going on across the pub – just as it used to in the good old days.
Steve, who took over the place a year ago, was attentive and good natured with a lively sense of humour. He explained the Coach House changed its name two years ago and tried being a gastro pub for 12 months but it didn’t really work. Since he and Kate took the reins they’ve kept it simple and created a great, welcoming pubs for the locals which offers decent, well-priced pub grub.
By now Kate had joined the throng and there was some great banter exchanged with local Ringo who was in celebrating his birthday with three pals.
At this point I, and a number of others, experienced a strange rumbling through our lower regions which left us thinking that either a helicopter was flying low or a hefty juggernaut was passing. Kate displayed a wry smile before admitting she’d just put her washing machine, situated directly above the bar on the first floor, on a spin cycle and had forgotten how powerful it was.
This information led to two further topics of conversation – the one I can repeat here relates to the day the new darts team was in and the bath over-ran. I’m sure the other claims about Kate and her spin cycle weren’t true anyway!
There were three large dog bowls at the back of the pub and the customers’ hounds are clearly just as welcome as the resident ones.
A black Cockapoo called Rufus was in and was very well behaved, though he took some persuading to sit when the fish and chips were delivered. It was obviously fish and chip Friday and the meals looked good.
The waitress, I think her name was Em, was also very upbeat and cheery as she went about the business of delivering meals and drinks in her jazzy arm furniture.
To keep ‘Concrete Kent’ happy I can report both the gents and ladies’ toilets were clean, fresh and well maintained. Although I’m not sure why the doors were wedged open? Still being able to listen to conversations in the pub while you pee is a little strange.
I took the opportunity of visiting the facilities to follow the one-way system and take a look at the garden patio area outside which is also impressive.
Back in the pub, the conversation had switched from vibrating washers to Scalextric as one of Ringo’s presents was a new rally car.
The incredibly friendly, upbeat and welcoming atmosphere continued for the rest of our visit and we were truly disappointed when it came time to leave.
It’s not surprising this pub has such a loyal band of locals, but it also fair to say visitors receive an equally warm welcome – Steve is as keen to encourage newcomers to drink just as much as he is his locals!
To conclude, all I can say is that I desperately wish the Coach House could be my local pub – the only problem is I’d never be out the place.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a great transformation to a pub, this is the best boozer for miles around.
Coach House – 11 Queen Anne Road, Maidstone ME14 1HA
Decor: The pub has everything you’d expect from a good local in town and, without being over-trendy is full of character. I liked the outside area too. ****
Drink: There wasn’t a huge amount of choice but landlord Steve was right about the Shipyard IPA, it’s a very decent pint. ****
Price: The Shipyard was £4 a pint and a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc just £1 more – good value. ****
Atmosphere: By far the most enjoyable time I’ve spent in a pub since the horrible ‘C word’ inflicted itself upon us all. Absolutely brilliant. *****
Staff: Perfect hosts, you will not find more pleasant, more professional or more welcoming landlords or landladies than Steve and Kate. Waitress ‘Em’ was lovely too. *****