Published: 11:30, 24 May 2019
Perfectly placed, just up from the river, I discovered this incredible 14th century pub, complete with beams and a hangman’s noose, backing straight onto Tonbridge Castle.
The bar was quiet, just half a dozen locals surrounding it on high stools, but I received a warm welcome from both them and the cheery barmaid in Ye Olde Chequers Inn.
There wasn’t a huge selection of beers - just three on tap - so I took the safe option with a Harvey’s Sussex Best – at 4% it cost me a pound for each point. Well served and as tasty as always. Mrs SD’s large sauvignon blanc (she only knows one size!) was just 20p more.
It’s a long bar with some impressively leaded windows looking out onto the High Street – I turned right and we sat back to observe the regulars in full flow.
At this point the landlord shouted ‘Play up Pompey’ before putting a fag in his mouth and switching on all four TV screens to show Portsmouth v Sunderland in the League1 play-offs. Locals and landlord then began a long conversation about TV shows, particularly Game of Thrones, and didn’t look at the screens again. Probably as well given the success of the Black Cats.
At any given time there were as many folk, including the landlord, landlady and barmaid, in the smoker’s corridor as there were in the pub. Smoking is taken seriously and those enjoying a fag get a great view of the castle. The barmaid went out three times while I was in. There’s a decent garden area with plenty of seating and colourful hanging baskets.
The whole place, inside and out, looks as if it has had a makeover recently and is pretty well furnished – though personally I’d lose the old gas fire and avoid the fairly lights on sticks in the ceiling.
There are two fruit machines, a jukebox and a regular karaoke slot for willing participants.
The gents, with trendy bevelled tiles roof to floor was fresh and sweet smelling, complete with a pot plant and air freshener. Actually they smelt better than the slightly smoky bar.
But, the joy of this place isn’t in the furnishings, the quality of the beer (which was fine) or even the aroma, it’s in the banter around the bar.
Landlord John takes pleasure in insulting all his locals equally at great length - the level of effing and jeffing achieved in his favourite pastime is astonishing.
According to his regulars the affable landlord saves his hospitable side for visitors who haven’t got to know him yet – I assume he warmed to me as he disappeared upstairs to shower, shave and don a salmon pink pullover in super quick time before returning to chat.
We exchanged pleasantries and I headed back onto the High Street.