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Secret Drinker at Wetherspoon pub the Samuel Peto in Folkestone

I’ve had the great pleasure of reviewing Kent pubs for five months now, but so far haven’t brought you the delights of a Spoons.

I almost popped in the ‘newish’ monster Wetherspoon in Ramsgate last week but wandered into The Crown before I made it to the seafront. So, this week I’m putting the omission right with the Samuel Peto in Folkestone.

From the outside, the Samuel Peto still looks more like a church than a pub
From the outside, the Samuel Peto still looks more like a church than a pub

From the outside you could be forgiven for missing it – not that it’s not impressive, it just doesn’t look like a boozer.

Walking up the steps I passed the usual smattering of smokers and overheard one on the phone say: “You want to get yourself down here, it’s freaks' day today”.

Not put off I went inside to experience Freaky Friday – which seemed just like any other fish Friday to me.

But, we need to take a moment to recognise and enjoy the full effect of walking into this place – it is incredible, without doubt the most impressive Spoons you’ll visit and one of the most spectacular pubs full stop.

It has everything you’ve come to expect from this chain – decent, well priced booze, fast and fresh, good value food, a few dropouts at a corner table and a massive amount of self-promotion. But, and it’s a huge but, this one has so much more.

The large central horseshoe bar allows you plenty of room to get served
The large central horseshoe bar allows you plenty of room to get served
Up above the chandeliers the high ceiling features a blue sky and fluffy white clouds
Up above the chandeliers the high ceiling features a blue sky and fluffy white clouds

The scale of this ex-church is breath-taking, forget for a moment the three chandeliers, the beautifully painted ceiling and the fact the kitchen is hidden behind the old church organ, if you sit upstairs you’ve got 94 steps just to get to the toilet and back – now, that’s a monster pub. Fortunately, after all the effort to get to the gents, there are two humorous signs to raise a smile – hymns and hyrs.

Though whether the old congregation would find it quite as amusing that their old church now has a machine selling vibe rings and pills for sexual stamina I’m not so sure! There is also CCTV operating inside the toilets, which incidentally were very well kept, fresh smelling and, from a design point of view, fitted in with the rest of the place.

Our food arrived in super-quick time but was, nevertheless, incredibly fresh and felt as if it had only just been prepared. A tuna melt with a fresh green salad and a Pepsi was just £4.69, while a halloumi wrap with chili jam and chunky chips, plus a pint of Barn Dancer bitter was only a quid more.

A view from outside the loos in the basement, it’s quite a few steps back to your seat on the first floor
A view from outside the loos in the basement, it’s quite a few steps back to your seat on the first floor

I think you’d struggle to find better food and drink at prices like this anywhere else – I was seriously impressed by both the level of service and quality.

And, while I’m waxing lyrical, Chloe the barmaid was also a cheeky, friendly breath of fresh air – what a lovely, helpful young lady, she even loaned me her pen (on pain of death I returned it) and called me darlin’.

Much else is what you might expect in a Spoons, no pool or darts of course, but a large fleet of incredibly bright electro fruities. From my vantage point upstairs I could only see one screen and, surprisingly, it was showing Parliament, in silent mode, the whole time I was in. Some might argue our current group of MPs are best set to silent, but I couldn’t see the point in having it on at all.

The pub may be a little dark, but the stained glass windows are spectacular
The pub may be a little dark, but the stained glass windows are spectacular
Hymns and Hyrs – more imaginative than some of the names you’ll see on toilet doors
Hymns and Hyrs – more imaginative than some of the names you’ll see on toilet doors

What I did notice though, was quite a few people using the Samuel Peto as a base to do some work - there were several folk either on a laptop or making business calls.

I must also give the world’s biggest real ale festival a mention that was happening in all Wetherspoon pubs the week I visited. It was celebrating 40 years of Wetherspoon with 40 great beers, I was recommended to try the festival ale, Barn Dancer (4.5%) from the Belhaven Brewery and this traditional Scottish brown ale was superb.

In many ways you know what to expect from Wetherspoons but despite the commonality, there is still an opportunity for a particular pub to stand out. The Samuel Peto has taken this chance and is a top class boozer.

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The pub is housed in what was previously the Salem Chapel. The chapel was funded by a loan from Sir Samuel Peto. A Baptist, Peto was one of the great railway contractors of the Victorian age, responsible for laying 750 miles of track in England and 2,300 more around the world. Peto’s company also built Nelson’s Column. He served as an MP for Folkestone for two decades, resigning his seat in 1866 after being declared insolvent, although he was owed £1million in unpaid debts. The foundation stone for this building was laid on August 4 1874 but Baptist worship came to an end a little more than a century later, 1987, when the building was sold.
The pub is housed in what was previously the Salem Chapel. The chapel was funded by a loan from Sir Samuel Peto. A Baptist, Peto was one of the great railway contractors of the Victorian age, responsible for laying 750 miles of track in England and 2,300 more around the world. Peto’s company also built Nelson’s Column. He served as an MP for Folkestone for two decades, resigning his seat in 1866 after being declared insolvent, although he was owed £1million in unpaid debts. The foundation stone for this building was laid on August 4 1874 but Baptist worship came to an end a little more than a century later, 1987, when the building was sold.
This might not be Chloe, but all the bar staff were friendly and welcoming
This might not be Chloe, but all the bar staff were friendly and welcoming
Bunting to promote the 40th anniversary beer festival was strung all over the pub
Bunting to promote the 40th anniversary beer festival was strung all over the pub
The rows of sauce bottles and stacked cutlery look incongruous in front of the organ pipes
The rows of sauce bottles and stacked cutlery look incongruous in front of the organ pipes

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