It had been a tough week for the SD household so, it being POETS day, I decided to treat the team at a pub of their choice.
They took us to the most modern boozer I’ve seen for many a long year and, leaving aside the question of how planning permission was obtained, we headed into the most American looking local I’ve encountered.
Taking its name directly from Faversham’s explosive history, the Gunpowder Mill, which can only be four or five years old, is out of town on the London Road just opposite the Shell garage.
There was a large paved outdoor area with plenty of tables but it was still quite early and the sun was fairly strong so we chose to head inside. His nibs said he was pleased about this as he’d found the clouds of smoke out front a little overpowering.
A pair of friendly, summery waitresses welcomed us and we were pointed in the direction of stainless steel table No.22, near the bar with a bench seat on one side and three crates of dog toys on the other.
It was made crystal clear it was bar service only and we were left alone to select our drinks and peruse the slightly sticky menus.
This being a Marston’s establishment I tried the 4.5% Pedigree Amber Ale, while Mrs SD moved away from the large white to a large blush and the apprentice selected a Camden Hells lager. Each drink was served in a correctly labelled glass and we all agreed the Pedigree was a very tasty drop.
Once we’d decided what food we wanted it took at least five minutes waiting at an empty bar before a waitress wandered along and took our order.
The meals, however, were delivered super quickly, probably less time than it took to place the order. We shared a nachos starter, but with its processed plastic American cheese and dollops of liquidised guacamole it wasn’t great and didn’t get finished.
For mains, which also arrived in nanoseconds, we chose a buttermilk fired chicken burger £13.25, bacon and cheese beef burger £11.75 and chicken Caesar salad £10.95.
You certainly couldn’t argue with the quantity though it all felt very mass produced and straight off a shelf or out of a freezer.
When I popped outside for a breath of air I noticed an interesting looking neighbour behind the pub and it crossed my mind I should perhaps have persuaded the other two to divert to the Mackade Food Hall, proudly dated 1847 – maybe another day.
I also saw there were plenty of picnic tables on the grass at the front of the pub but they were all empty, presumably too close to the road and the petrol station – or maybe no-one wanted to sit in plain view of the fuel prices?
Back inside, a youngster had dragged out the dog toys and in avoiding them I spotted the TV screen for the first time.
Unlike many places, where they’re in your face, this one, showing BBC news on a loop, is discreetly sited above the door and, with the sound off, I hadn’t noticed it.
There isn’t a pool table, dartboard or jukebox but there was an electronic fruit machine, which I noted no longer accepts cash - a sign of the times.
There is a soft surface children’s play area at the side of the pub and several grateful parents were taking full advantage of the free time it gave them. Although one mum wasn’t happy to pay her full bill – I will spare some of the details but the gist of her argument was “I’m not going to pay for what he sicked up”.
I’m not sure exactly how things ended but let’s just say, after the unhappy parent stomped off the barmaids did not shy away from sharing their thoughts.
Fortunately the atmosphere was broken when a team of footballers came in to have a couple of pints of Estrella following training – and they didn’t sick anything up!
There was a sign offering takeaway puddings as ‘you’ll have room later’, but Mrs SD couldn’t see beyond the bar pump offering a variety of different flavoured tonics and the apprentice was so keen to see it in action he bought her a Hendricks with cucumber tonic.
However, in the end the G&T only delayed puddings and after another wait at the bar a chocolate praline torte with cherry sorbet and baked vanilla cheesecake, which should have come with a berry compote (but didn’t) were delivered.
The torte was fine but the cheesecake definitely needed a fruit accompaniment.
Now I know it was bar service only, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the plates from our mains to be taken away when the puddings were served, instead they were left sitting there until after we left.
This pub might look like a US roadside restaurant but there’s no way such poor service levels would be tolerated Stateside – a case of much more Yankee Doodle and very little Dandy.
The Gunpowder Mill, London Road, Faversham ME13 8XE
Decor: Too modern and clinical for me. Crates to contain the dog toys is a good idea, but I didn’t rate the stainless steel table and the plastic flowers round the bar certainly need to go. **
Drink: The Pedigree Amber Ale bitter was understated but very pleasant – it’s not often all three of us agree about a drink. The pinot blush wine was fine and the apprentice said the Camden lager was a good example. ***
Food: Everything was served very speedily and the portions were certainly generous but unfortunately the quality of the food left a little to be desired. It looked, and tasted, far too mass produced, though one pudding was better. **
Price: Camden Hells lager is £5.20 a pint, a large Pinot Blush £7.50 and a pedigree Amber Ale £4.25. The Hendricks with cucumber tonic was £6.15. A pint of Estrella would cost you £5.75. **
Staff: Welcoming and friendly when we first arrived, there seemed to be plenty of staff on duty but there were too many occasions when everyone went AWOL. **
Catch up on all Secret Drinker's Kent pub reviews here
Click here to follow Secret Drinker on Twitter
Want more Secret Drinker? Sign up here for his new monthly newsletter