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Secret Drinker reviews the Red Lion pub, Badlesmere, near Faversham

Heading along the A251 with the rain pelting down and a grumbling tum I decided I would pull up at the very next pub, no matter what it looked like.

So, that’s how I ended up dodging the puddles in the car park looking for the quickest way into the Red Lion at Badlesmere, near Faversham.

Take care if you walk round the front of the pub, the Red Lion is only about a foot away from the main road at one point
Take care if you walk round the front of the pub, the Red Lion is only about a foot away from the main road at one point

I have to say the pub is incredibly close to the road and from the side entrance doesn’t look overly inviting.

However, once you’re through the door and your eyes adapt to the slightly dark interior you’ll quickly realise you’ve made exactly the right choice.

Strings of beautiful, still-green Kent hops are hung around the beams and there are traditional horse brasses and proper pub furniture throughout.

A mere glance along the bar immediately informs you this is a free house and, even more interestingly, that your host is prepared to serve a few lesser known beverages.

Breaking with tradition, and only because I was Hank Marvin, I placed my food order before even considering what I might have to drink. But, with a three egg omelette and chips in the offering, I transferred my full attention to barmaid Linda and, having tasted a few options, was sold on the Montgomery from the Wantsum Brewery at St Nicolas At Wade, near Margate.

A first glance down the well-stocked bar will tell you this is a free house which likes to bring in different beers for the locals to sample
A first glance down the well-stocked bar will tell you this is a free house which likes to bring in different beers for the locals to sample
This is Lexie, apparently she’s a show cocker spaniel, who was lucky enough to get her bed placed just in front of the fire
This is Lexie, apparently she’s a show cocker spaniel, who was lucky enough to get her bed placed just in front of the fire

An American hopped IPA at 4% it’s a fantastic tasting pint and you know at once they look after their beer properly at the Red Lion.

There were two incredibly comfy-looking red chairs perfectly placed in front of the open fire but a couple of locals had already snagged them and their hound Lexie was well snuggled into her bed.

The electronic till was making me even more hungry as it kept showing photos of great looking food – there’s also a traditional ding-dong (Avon calling) style of bell to tell the bar staff when food can be collected from the kitchen.

The fire was in and logs were being added regularly so, when the red chairs became free, I found my perfect spot
The fire was in and logs were being added regularly so, when the red chairs became free, I found my perfect spot
Traditional Kent hops look great hung from the top of the beams – though keeping the brasses clean must be a labour of love
Traditional Kent hops look great hung from the top of the beams – though keeping the brasses clean must be a labour of love

When my turn came the food was absolutely superb.

None of your gastro-pub pristine presentation of just a few morsels – no, what you get here is freshly cooked, incredibly tasty proper pub food, it was great. I’m not sure why I chose an omelette as there was stacks of choice on the menu but when it was delivered I was delighted with my selection.

By now I was through the Montgomery and as the last moreish mouthful disappeared I was particularly taken by the note at the bottom of the glass – yes, I did ‘wantsum more’.

Fresh, tasty and very filling I was delighted with my choice from the menu – if I hadn’t been told it was gluten free I never would have known
Fresh, tasty and very filling I was delighted with my choice from the menu – if I hadn’t been told it was gluten free I never would have known
I’m a big fan of the Wantsum Brewery and particularly enjoyed the light-hearted line I discovered at the bottom of my glass
I’m a big fan of the Wantsum Brewery and particularly enjoyed the light-hearted line I discovered at the bottom of my glass

There’s no pool, darts, fruit machines, jukebox or anything else to trouble you so I, like everyone else, just chatted and I discovered Lexie, whose beard drips water as she drinks, is not only a show cocker spaniel, she is also a hearing dog for her equally lovely owner Ruth.

While I was in a fellow from the local brewery made a fresh delivery and I’m sure this is a pub with a well-stocked bar and great new beers on a rapid turnaround.

I’m only able to report what I find on a particular visit, but I have to say gazing through the torrential rain pelting the back windows I couldn’t help but yearn for some warm sunshine as I’m sure the garden must be great in the summer.

No-one was braving the weather the day I was in, but through the raindrops on the window you could tell the garden must be lovely in the summer
No-one was braving the weather the day I was in, but through the raindrops on the window you could tell the garden must be lovely in the summer
Cleary a popular place for food, a good deal of the pub is set aside for dining
Cleary a popular place for food, a good deal of the pub is set aside for dining

Leaving by the much more pleasant door at the back, away from the speeding traffic, I spotted a very polite message from the pub dog Gatsby and was just a little disappointed I didn’t get to meet him.

There are several nods to trendier pub innovations - face moisturiser in the gents and trendy lightbulbs which don’t give out quite enough light - but for the most part the Red Lion is pub which quite rightly believes in maintaining traditional quality – something it does really well.

Now, there’s just one more thing I need to tell you, although I didn’t notice this myself until I was literally about to leave.

Decorated in an old style, this is the type of pub that’s proud not to have changed much in recent years – and, it’s all the better for it
Decorated in an old style, this is the type of pub that’s proud not to have changed much in recent years – and, it’s all the better for it
The side entrance from the car park isn’t the pub’s best side, but it does have the all-important delivery doors to the cellar
The side entrance from the car park isn’t the pub’s best side, but it does have the all-important delivery doors to the cellar

The entire menu is gluten-free.

Well, I’m not a man who goes out of his way to be free of anything – give me red meat, carbs, fat, salt – the more the merrier.

And, to be fair, there wouldn’t have been gluten in my meal anyway, but to have such an interesting and extensive menu as this for folk who need to be gluten free must be a real treat.

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The pub opens seven days a week from noon
The pub opens seven days a week from noon
And, just for regular reader Pickled Fudge, here’s a shot of the gents, Despite what you say, you can tell a lot about a place by its toilets – not many places offer the guys face moisturiser alongside the events calendar
And, just for regular reader Pickled Fudge, here’s a shot of the gents, Despite what you say, you can tell a lot about a place by its toilets – not many places offer the guys face moisturiser alongside the events calendar
I’m sure the beers turn around pretty quickly at the Red Lion but, if it’s still on, do yourself a favour and try the Montgomery
I’m sure the beers turn around pretty quickly at the Red Lion but, if it’s still on, do yourself a favour and try the Montgomery
If you’re feeling in a lager mood, then I’d recommend the Helles Belles
If you’re feeling in a lager mood, then I’d recommend the Helles Belles
The side entrance isn’t particularly inviting and I’m sure anyone in the know, who isn’t dashing through the rain in the car park, uses the more convivial back door
The side entrance isn’t particularly inviting and I’m sure anyone in the know, who isn’t dashing through the rain in the car park, uses the more convivial back door
There was no sign of Gatsby when I was in, but he’d kindly left a polite message on the gate
There was no sign of Gatsby when I was in, but he’d kindly left a polite message on the gate

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