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Secret Drinker reviews two Broadstairs pubs, Bradstow Mill and Cramptons


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I let the train take the strain and ended up with a BOGOF in Broadstairs. To make sure I stayed on track, Mrs SD accompanied me on this latest pub spying mission.

We agreed to follow our noses and try the first boozer we found, but within 30 seconds of walking out of the station faced a dilemma.

Opposite the entrance to Broadstairs railway station, Cramptons free house on the high street looks a little like a station itself
Opposite the entrance to Broadstairs railway station, Cramptons free house on the high street looks a little like a station itself

Two hostelries on the far side of the high street, just a stone’s throw apart – I spotted the Bradstow Mill but she was already heading elsewhere.

I’m obviously master in my house, so I put my foot down and insisted we head to the Bradstow, before dutifully following she who must be obeyed into Cramptons free house.

Weirdly, it felt a little like we’d walked back into the train station, whether it’s the brown paint, the layout or the signage I’m not sure, but parts of the pub reminded me of a waiting room and the dining section definitely had the feel and look of a canteen.

Sudden, heavy downpours of rain left the outside area at the back of Cramptons a no-go zone for the afternoon, though the beach hut-style shelters looked interesting
Sudden, heavy downpours of rain left the outside area at the back of Cramptons a no-go zone for the afternoon, though the beach hut-style shelters looked interesting
Flanked by a pair of outdoor heaters, there is a sealed display unit to house a large screen TV so smokers don’t miss any of the sports action
Flanked by a pair of outdoor heaters, there is a sealed display unit to house a large screen TV so smokers don’t miss any of the sports action

The barmaid said they hadn’t got any real ale so I settled for the next best thing, a pint of Neck Oil from Beavertown, a 4.3% IPA. Mrs SD, the only woman in, apart from the barmaid, went for the usual.

Some local builders had benefitted from a rained-off Friday and had made the most of their time since noon – a dozen lively, lairy, very noisy, but good natured, workers were enjoying an early weekend.

There are three huge TV screens, a pair of old fashioned fruit machines and plenty of chunky tables with high stools. There’s no darts or pool and, whilst a few food deals looked reasonable value, the beer certainly wasn’t cheap.

There wasn’t any bitter on tap, so I settled for a pint of Neck Oil, a 4.3% IPA from the Beavertown Brewery. Mrs SD stuck to type with a large Sauvignon Blanc
There wasn’t any bitter on tap, so I settled for a pint of Neck Oil, a 4.3% IPA from the Beavertown Brewery. Mrs SD stuck to type with a large Sauvignon Blanc
Like everywhere else in the pub, there is something about the decoration in the gents that reminded me of a railway station
Like everywhere else in the pub, there is something about the decoration in the gents that reminded me of a railway station

The toilets were a little bit station-like too but weren’t badly maintained and there was a very decent looking outside space with a beach hut feel at the far end.

While it wasn’t a complete disappointment, Cramptons had nothing to make us linger longer than it took to neck one drink and Mrs SD didn’t take much persuading to move on and, I was now determined to deliver my loyal readers a double-value, double-header.

Just a couple of doors down, the Bradstow Mill immediately felt like a proper pub and the expectant barmaid was warm and welcoming. And, unlike its neighbour, it had proper beer on tap at a half sensible price.

From outside Bradstow Mill, also opposite the railway station, looks every inch the traditional edge-of-town public house you’d find on any high street
From outside Bradstow Mill, also opposite the railway station, looks every inch the traditional edge-of-town public house you’d find on any high street

Although it isn’t really one, the pub is designed to look like a windmill inside, although there was at one time an old mill further back on the site.

I chose a pint of Gadds No 7, which is a very decent, light session beer with a malty smoothness. As well as serving beer and being every inch a proper pub, there are signs displaying a deal which means a pint bought between noon and 7pm, Monday to Friday is £2.45 cheaper than Cramptons.

This is all the more remarkable when you realise, as I did quite quickly, these pubs are both owned by the same chain - Thorley Taverns.

A special offer, reducing the cost of a pint to £3.50 between noon and 7pm from Monday to Friday makes this place much cheaper than its sister boozer a couple of doors away
A special offer, reducing the cost of a pint to £3.50 between noon and 7pm from Monday to Friday makes this place much cheaper than its sister boozer a couple of doors away

Having cheek-by-jowl pubs owned by the same company is not unusual, for the company to present the pubs differently in order to appeal to a wider audience is equally understandable.

But, creating such a large price difference between pints, particularly as the much cheaper one is available in the better pub, is harder for me to understand.

In here you will find darts, pool, big TV screens, a quiz machine, a jukebox and even a pinball machine.

Even the central bar has been styled on the inside of a working windmill, complete with faux internal machinery and even a trap door
Even the central bar has been styled on the inside of a working windmill, complete with faux internal machinery and even a trap door

Mrs SD’s view is that the Bradstow is less appealing from the outside than its neighbour but is a much, much better pub once you get inside – and, I agree with her wholeheartedly.

Everything about the place feels better, from the professional, proficient barmaid to the friendly, approachable locals and definitely the price of a pint at £3.50.

Already aware we’d be staying here for more than one drink, I invested a pound to put Young Rebel Set on the jukebox and inserted a further quid in the Game of Thrones pinball table to take me back to my youth. I’m sure each of these Thorley pubs will have its own fans who already vote with their feet on a regular basis.

However, if you find yourself stepping off the train in Broadstairs and facing a decision on which way to turn for a pint or two, take my advice and put yourself through the Mill, it offers a much better atmosphere and is a good deal cheaper most of the week.

The original mill may have been sited elsewhere, but inside the current pub everything possible has been done to create the impression of an historic windmill
The original mill may have been sited elsewhere, but inside the current pub everything possible has been done to create the impression of an historic windmill

Cramptons, 139 High Street, Broadstairs CT10 1NG

Decor: Plastic hanging baskets and a canteen-style restaurant, it’s functional but there’s not much to recommend it apart from the outside area. **

Drink: There was a Doom Bar in a bottle but no ‘proper beer’ on tap and while the wine was passable, Mrs SD wasn’t staying for a second. **

Price: Given the general quality, and the feel of the place, having to pay £5.95 for a pint of Neck Oil is stretching a point. The wine, at £6.70, was more reasonable but still not great. **

Staff: Our barmaid was polite enough, without being cheery, and just about the best thing to commend in Cramptons. ***

By the time we reached this second pub the rain clouds had passed by and the sunshine was out. Like Cramptons, the Bradstow Mill has an attractive, well-maintained outside area with plenty of seating.
By the time we reached this second pub the rain clouds had passed by and the sunshine was out. Like Cramptons, the Bradstow Mill has an attractive, well-maintained outside area with plenty of seating.

Bradstow Mill, 125 High Street, Broadstairs CT10 1NG

Decor: Okay, it’s never been a real windmill, but it looks the part and everything about the furnishings screams real pub. ****

Drink: Simply having a couple of beers on tap is a much better start. Local brew Gadds No 7 is a very decent session beer. There is a good selection of other drinks available too. ****

Price: It might exclude the weekend, but reducing the price of a pint to £3.50 Monday to Friday, between noon and 7pm meant this was a good deal cheaper than down the road. The wine was identically priced to the pub we visited previously. ***

Staff: Our barmaid Poppy could not have been more welcoming and was happy to chat to locals and visitors alike. ****

The decoration inside these two Thorley Tavern pubs is very different, though I think the company may have taken advantage of a job lot of tiles when it came to decorating the gents
The decoration inside these two Thorley Tavern pubs is very different, though I think the company may have taken advantage of a job lot of tiles when it came to decorating the gents
Proud of its heritage in the town, you’ll find a sign on the wall of the bar detailing the history of the pub
Proud of its heritage in the town, you’ll find a sign on the wall of the bar detailing the history of the pub

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