The town of Tenterden proudly traces its history back to Saxon times and over the years has prospered thanks to the burgeoning wool trade.
This Ancient Boro’ on East Cross might not date back quite as far as those days, but the latest owners are rightly proud of the part they’re playing in its recent history.
Faced by rows of beautifully presented kegs, I was convinced I’d been lucky enough to wander into a micro-pub. But Sarah, behind the bar, immediately put me straight saying it can’t claim micro-pub status as they serve food, namely tapas.
Technically speaking this may be true, but the fact there’s such a great selection of ales and ciders on offer, plus there’s no pool table, no darts, no jukebox, TV screens or any other nonsense mean for me ‘If the cap fits…’
Sarah and co-owner Ray took the place on 18 months ago, prior to this it was a Chinese restaurant for 50 years but before that a pub, so they were keen to return it to its former use - and name.
Some locals still remember the old pub and are delighted by the reincarnation – Ray himself has memories of popping in to fetch his dad when he was still a schoolboy.
Keen to sample as many ales as possible I took on a tray of thirds, which was fantastic value at £3.80. Mrs SD stuck to her own traditions with a large Terra Molino Airen sauvignon blanc.
The extensive tapas menu was chalked up on a huge mirror on the back wall and looked as good as it looked authentic so, although we were in too late for the kitchen this time, we’ll definitely return to sample the higadillos salteados and rosado con limon aioli.
The place was quiet for a Saturday night and perhaps, even more surprisingly, women outnumbered men by three to one while we were in. Two ladies took up residence right on the end of the line of kegs and, after perusing the gin menu started a highly voluble conversation where every other word was yah.
For me the place has just enough feel of the old pub and the new incarnation – the obligatory stripped wooden floor, a selection of different tables and chairs, hops strung loosely over the bar and umbrellas in a pot near the door.
With black tiles and a good deal of stainless steel, the toilets are immaculate and incredibly well maintained. There is something of a boudoir on suite about them, particularly with the splash of pink in the ladies, but they were spotless. And, the cubicle ratio at two to one was close to matching Saturday’s clientele.
Plenty of ‘old pub’ references have been retained, there was even a jar of pickled eggs behind the bar and signs with semi-humorous messages dotted around the walls. And, I’m certainly a fan of the old framed photographs displaying not only the long history of the pub but also some of its old regulars.
I spied a dog bowl just inside the door so dogs are obviously welcomed and I also saw one local come in close to closing time to take several pints away in cardboard take-out containers – another nice touch which I haven’t seen for a while.
Keen to make the place a financial success, the owners are trying a whole host of different events and ideas – in January roast dinners were introduced on Sundays, there was a Caribbean evening with special dishes and a well contested quiz.
Finally, just a heads-up, there’s a house rule about mobile phones so if you plan to make an extended call you need to be aware you’ll receive a polite request to step outside!
For those interested in beer I had the Cream Ale from Tenterden' s Old Dairy Brewery. At 4.5% it was pale, very creamy and not overly powerful, but maintained plenty of flavour.
Next up was the 5% Green Daemon from the Hopdaemon Brewery in Sittingbourne. This had a good deal more fizz to it and, to me, had an over-riding flavour of banana – certainly tropical and fruity.
Last, but by no means least, was Red Imperial from the Stag Brewery at nearby Woodchurch, which, despite being only 4.8%, is a deep flavoured dark red chocolatey-style ale with a slightly sour aftertaste.