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Secret Drinker at the Spotted Dog pub, Penshurst, near Tunbridge Wells

By Secret Drinker

If I get a request to visit a pub it falls into one of two categories – a regular wants a few minutes of fame for their local or someone’s made a one-off visit and is desperate to share the experience.

If it’s the latter you can be sure they either think it’s brilliant or a complete hole of the worst kind.

Claire and Malcolm both got in touch to say I should try the Spotted Dog in Penshurst, so I headed into the lovely countryside surrounding Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

The Spotted Dog is a beautiful 15th century country inn, full of character, on Smarts Hill in picturesque Penshurst - just six miles from Tunbridge Wells
The Spotted Dog is a beautiful 15th century country inn, full of character, on Smarts Hill in picturesque Penshurst - just six miles from Tunbridge Wells

The first thing I faced was a strict warning to remove my muddy boots, the notice made it clear the only exemption applies to a visiting George Clooney. I can’t claim to be any George Clooney, but fortunately my shoes were clean.

Greeted by a blonde waitress under low dark beams covered in hops the signs were all good. The fact Mrs SD was instantly sent outside really got the visit off to a great start – I hasten to add she was only being pointed in the direction of the ladies.

Right, time for a drink, and I started with a pint of 3.4% Larkins from nearby Chiddingstone. The barman and locals gathered on their barstools were all polite enough to save their guffaws, at least until the head had settled. It was then agreed by all at the bar, and me when I tried it, this beer is as dull as dishwater and similar in appearance. They also assured me they have informed the owner of this fact. It’s not often I don’t finish a pint, but halfway down I switched to the 4.8%t American Pale Ale on offer, which had a much heftier bite to it and is one I can recommend.

History everywhere you look, now that’s what I call a fireplace for a real fire
History everywhere you look, now that’s what I call a fireplace for a real fire
The Spotted Dog is a 500 year old building which originally started out as three cottages
The Spotted Dog is a 500 year old building which originally started out as three cottages

Whist I didn’t get a heads-up on the Larkins I was warned off the Harvey’s as the barman said it wasn’t the greatest barrel and was right at the end anyway – good to know.

Apart from the previously mentioned locals dotted at the bar, the whole pub is set up for diners and is bedecked from head to toe in typical pub ornaments – horse harness, brasses, old bottles and, mainly positioned on high shelves, plenty of spotted dog knick-knacks.

Dating back to 1520, this is a free house which oozes old world charm and is decorated as you’d expect with lovely hanging baskets, flowers in both wellies and bottles on each table – pity they felt the need to drape fairy lights through the hops.

Just some of the spotted dogs you’ll spy if you visit
Just some of the spotted dogs you’ll spy if you visit

Even the music dated back a bit – a number of 1960s tunes, with a fair smattering of The King.

As well as telling me I must let them know if dogs are welcome and disabled folk are catered for, SD readers have also been encouraging me to sample pub menus. Well, a) pooches are allowed, b) sadly stairs mean there is no wheelchair access, c) I found a table and tried the food for you.

The pigeon breast with pear, £6.25, was a touch overdone and tough but tasted okay, the pie of the day, even with chips, peas and gravy was a little steep at £12.50 but the steak in it was fantastically cooked and very tender.

Unfortunately the profiteroles were filled with a Baileys-based cream that had, as my dear old mum would have put it, already ‘on the turn’. I couldn’t eat them and the waitress said she’d let the kitchen know but we heard no more.

The garden out back is a lot steeper than at the front of the pub, but the bonus is a great view
The garden out back is a lot steeper than at the front of the pub, but the bonus is a great view
Sign of the times, you can’t beat a classic, unique pub sign
Sign of the times, you can’t beat a classic, unique pub sign

By now it was my turn to be sent outside as the gents is also outdoors. I particularly enjoyed the choice of image for the urinal walls.

There’s room to sit/smoke outside, both front and back. If you select the back it’s a much steeper incline but the view makes it worth the extra steps.

Having begun this review explaining why I thought the Spotted Dog would turn out to be either a great pub or the complete opposite, I find myself reporting it’s perfectly fine and passable as a decent old boozer that’s probably worth a visit if you can find the time.

Read more Secret Drinker reviews here

Town centre pub to be auctioned off

You can check out the pub's opening times online at www.spotteddogpub.com (14153847)
You can check out the pub's opening times online at www.spotteddogpub.com (14153847)
Racy looking cars featured on the wall of the gents
Racy looking cars featured on the wall of the gents

You can follow Secret Drinker on Twitter here

There’s a stack of space in the pub car park just across the road
There’s a stack of space in the pub car park just across the road

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