I don’t think I’ve seen two such diametrically opposed pubs sitting cheek-by-jowl so I decided to do you, and myself, a favour by seeing what this Rochester High Street pair had to offer.
First, it was a pint in the City Wall, which reminded me of a seafront bar in Magaluf, followed by a swift second in the Eagle Tavern, an old-fashioned place claiming to be the town’s top spot for music.
There were signs plastered all over City Wall warning me to be quiet as I left, and that was before I’d even got through the door.
The STAFF barman, as he announced himself in 9 inch letters on the back of his black T-shirt, said he couldn’t recommend a pint as his friends are Russians so he only drinks vodka.
The best description of the ales available would be non-existent so, already feeling as if I’d stepped off the strip, I tried a Cruzcampo lager hailing from Seville. He said it’s known for ‘having a Moretti vibe’ but at £6.20 it didn’t do much for my vibe.
There were six screens showing lacklustre tennis to no-one so I wandered outside and encountered two decorators debating whether they would rather fight 100 people or one gorilla.
They did five more minutes of terrible varnishing work before popping inside to claim free drinks and prop up the bar. Talking of props, the barman must be the only five foot six inch prop forward I’ve met, though he wasn’t short of muscles and reckoned he could do 100 metres in 11 seconds.
Apart from the overwhelming Spanish seaside resort feel, I’d describe the vibe as purple, including the cloth on the pool table, the tacky paintwork and even the jazzy tile mosaic on the front of the bar.
There is a sea of stainless steel in the gents and a large CCTV camera directly over the urinal, images from the CCTV are displayed on a screen at the bar.
There was a sign on the jukebox offering you the chance to host your own party for free and another saying live bands strike up at 2pm every Saturday. But they were overshadowed by warning signs that this is a residential area, so keep the noise down and definitely vacate the ‘patio’ area by midnight.
I reckoned I’d experienced all the City Wall had to offer so flew next door to sample the Eagle Tavern.
Here I was met by a guy talking into his phone like Dom Joly and a smartly dressed barmaid just back from an interview – congratulations on the new job by the way.
Dom Joly had finished dishing out marriage advice at high volume on his mobile and when I declined his offer of marital tips he shifted his attention to the barmaid. She quickly advised him she was happy with her single status and reached for her vape.
Like next door there are stacks of signs on display – though when I checked its claim to be ‘Rochester’s No.1 music venue’ I was told it needs to be painted over as they no longer do music because the landlady wants to create a pub where people come in and talk – now that’s a novel idea, it’ll never catch on.
Mind you, they had at least got beer on draught and I had a choice between Tribute from the St Austell Brewery and Timothy Taylor’s Knowle Spring – I went for the former, as the latter tasted like very weak dishwater.
The barmaid informed me it was a Heineken pub but, like the STAFF next door, she wasn’t able to offer advice on beer or lager as she was strictly a wine and gin girl.
Like the barman next door she was a keen vaper and reached for the contraption whenever she got the opportunity and also spent a reasonable amount of time glued to her mobile.
They’re definitely trying to engender a more homely feel here, including the furniture, old-fashioned music selections, trendy old lightbulbs, a variety of games, dominoes, Scrabble etc and a sign offering a ‘home- cooked roast’ on a Sunday. There was a screen on the wall but here it wasn’t switched on, maybe another effort to get folk talking.
At the City Wall I was literally the only person in but there were at least a few lonely folk dotted about this place.
There was a decent welcome in both pubs and both bar staff were on reasonable form but, based on the drinks available and the price, I’d be tempted back to The Eagle ahead of the City Wall.
And, given I was reliably informed there are 17, no less, drinking establishments on Rochester High Street these days I’d probably try the other 15 before visiting either of these again.
CITY WALL, 120-122 HIGH STREET, ROCHESTER ME1 1JT
Decor: Stainless steel and purple paintwork with canteen-style tables and chairs, there must be a multitude of bars like this on Benidorm beachfront. *
Drink: If you’re looking to get lager-fuelled or like your cocktails on tap this is the place for you. Though I did see a sign for bottled ‘Newkie Broon’. *
Price: It might have a Moretti vibe, but at £6.20 a pint Sevillian lager Cruzcampo isn’t refreshing enough to keep me coming back. As wet, fizzy drinks go it’s fine, but doesn’t justify the extra expense. **
STAFF: The swift, rugby playing barman with Russian mates was welcoming enough and upbeat. ***
EAGLE TAVERN, 124 HIGH STREET, ROCHESTER ME1 1JT
Decor: Feeling much more like a traditional high street boozer, there are large front windows letting in plenty of light and, although most tables are available for diners, it still feels like the sort of pub where you could prop up the bar. ***
Drink: Neither were great but at least there were two draught beers available. I’ve had better pints of Tribute and I’ve definitely had much, much better pints of Timothy Taylor’s. The Cruzcampo from Seville was also available here. **
Price: A pint of 4.2% Tribute from St Austell Brewery is £4.60 but I’ve had better examples and paid less for them. **
Staff: The barmaid is already making plans for her next job and may not be behind the bar at the Eagle for much longer but she was chatty and pleasant. ***
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