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Eat My Words review of The Tuck Inn café in Newington near Sittingbourne

Earlier this month we reviewed Kent’s top-rated café.

Where I’m headed is similarly popular, but very much a ‘caff’ in comparison – none of yer fancy newfangled spellings or grilled halloumi here, thank you.

The Tuck Inn in Newington
The Tuck Inn in Newington

The Tuck Inn off the A2 in Newington, between Rainham and Sittingbourne, is your quintessential no-frills greasy spoon.

It’s the kind of place where the candidates on The Apprentice go when they lose a task. But it also has a huge following and was even voted as serving the second best English breakfast in a 2021 KentOnline poll.

So has this former truck stop managed to keep a legion of loyal fry-up fans since its owners of 24 years moved on last October?

Well, yes, judging from the few spaces in the car park. Now in charge are Paula Goldfinch and her partner Roy Golding who formerly ran Mickey's Diner on the A249 in Detling.

While the Tuck Inn offers a dinner menu, roasts and sandwiches, it’s the all-day breakfasts that everyone’s here for, and that includes around a dozen bikers who have stopped off for a Sunday morning meet.

Inside the clientele range from leather-clad Harley-Davidson fans, to slightly hungover-looking 20-somethings and pensioners chatting long after their plates have been cleared.

There are no menus - most people don’t seem to need one and know their order by heart - just options chalked up behind the till. It’s the fry ups I’m interested in, numbered one to seven.

Now, psychologists believe they can boil down the human condition to just 16 personality types.

In these studies they clearly haven’t ever tried asking the subjects for their preferences when it comes to the constitution of the ideal English breakfast.

Never have I met anyone who has agreed on this topic and I’m fairly certain noone will fall perfectly into any of those seven options without some switching, holding, adding, or lying to themselves.

Breakfast option number four
Breakfast option number four

I did the latter, and pretended I wanted plum tomatoes. Reader, I did not.

I don’t want to dwell too long on The Great English Breakfast Debate.

Forget Brexit or climate change denial - few things inspire the all-consuming rage like finding out a formerly-respected friend prefers black pudding to mushrooms, or red sauce to brown.

But I was pleased to report hash browns making a regular appearance on the blackboard. This is despite a genuine campaign by the English Breakfast Society to blacklist them from the nation’s plates.

I warned you this subject would get your blood boiling…

Reviewer Claire McWethy tucks into her full English
Reviewer Claire McWethy tucks into her full English

I opted for a number 4 (sausage, bacon, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and hash brown at £7.70) despite being too embarrassed to expose myself as a cafe rather than caff regular and asking what the B&B was accompanying it.

Customers do rave about what great value the Tuck inn is, so I took a seat in what was signposted as the ‘naughty corner’ with a frothy coffee to consider if I might have bagged an overnight stay into the bargain.

Ten minutes later our order number was bellowed out and I found to my disappointment that B&B in fact stood for bread and butter. Otherwise known as raw toast. It could join the tomatoes.

Apart from that wildcard, it was a solid full English - egg perfectly runny, hash brown crispy and the sausage, well, sausagey.

The plate wasn’t swimming in oil, or the portion so gigantic I needed a half-time break to psych myself up to finish it.

The eggs benedict and sweetcorn salad
The eggs benedict and sweetcorn salad

My companion cheerfully declared his banana milkshake the quickest he’d ever received and the accompanying sweetcorn salad with his eggs benedict the weirdest.

This is where the superlatives run out, but that’s not to say it wasn’t perfectly good grub, especially when he took time to consider some of the wallpaper pastes masquerading as hollandaise sauces I’ve previously served up at home.

As we were about to leave a ripple of laughter and good-natured heckling went around as order number 69 was announced.

Comforting is the word that best describes the Tuck Inn. From the punny name to its ‘90s Word Art signage and the hodgepodge of mugs that look like they’ve been raided from a Uni student’s cupboard after Fresher’s Fair - mine was a freebie for Dalwood designer flooring - it has a wholly unpretentious, old school, homely feel.

It’s as if, while the rest of the culinary world was painting everything slate grey, smashing avocados and taking itself a wee bit too seriously, this place stayed in a time warp of a simpler age. One without VAR or endless online tests to prove you’re not a robot.

The interior of the roadside ‘caff’
The interior of the roadside ‘caff’

It’s only just started taking card payments, and I think it might be a while before it could be described as vegan-friendly. But it does hearty, value grub with a smile on its face.

It is everything you could want from a greasy spoon, just without the grease.

Out of five:

Food: It’s not going to score well in terms of WeightWatchers points, but it was quick, warm and tasty ***1/2

Drink: A decent coffee and the drinks came out at lightning pace. An extra star for the excellent mugs - big up Dalwood designer flooring! ****

Decor: It might look like a shack from the road, but it’s got definite personality inside, with bold crimson walls, nostalgic trucking signs and a retro feel. Spotlessly clean too ***

Staff: Loud! You have to be when the serving system involves yelling out order numbers. But the waiters and waitresses were friendly and fast *****

Price: Even a Spoons breakfast, the benchmark of a cheap and cheerful fry-up, is now verging on £9, so the Tuck Inn compares very favourably. For us it came in at around a tenner a head. Plus you get extra lashings of character *****

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