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23 April 2014

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Focus on... bars and pubs in Kent

(menu)

Kent coastline - iStock_000019112075Small_Kent.jpgLondon may be only an hour’s drive away, but its culture of cool bars and cocktails has yet to travel down the motorway. What passes for vibrant nightlife in a Kentish town tends to focus on the bingeing lost generation. However, the county is also blessed with some of the most ancient and picturesque country pubs in England – many so hard to find they will feel like your own personal discovery. Here you will encounter a dream team of Kentish heroes – the region is awash with brilliant microbreweries, cider makers and wineries. Be warned, you may also find yourself checking out the local house prices.

The Bull at Benenden, Benenden

The interior is beamed and appealing, there’s no stuffiness, just cheery staff making sure you are well watered – of course Kentish real ales take centre stage. In summer wander outside to watch a game of cricket on the village green.

Five Bells Inn, East Brabourne

In a quiet village, surrounded by open countryside, this 16th-century hostelry is an attractive mixture of rusticity and neat, well-ordered gentrification. It’s a good source of locally brewed ales, and the five bedrooms upstairs are more upscale boutique hotel than rural pub.

Griffin’s Head, Chillenden

A truly classic rural boozer, a real step back in time, with a compact bar steeped in character. The huge inglenook, beams and rustic furnishings should come as no surprise, but the admirable wine list and blackboard list of Champagnes also make this a useful little bolthole for sophisticating imbibing.

The Pearson’s Arms, Whitstable

Opened up, freshened up and generally given a fashionably folksy look, this white clapboard seaside inn is a refreshing, likeable hostelry and a favourite haunt of the down-from-London crowd. The bar deals in real ales, good wines and pub grub classics ranging from Welsh rarebit to cod and chips.

The Plough, Stalisfield Green

Stalisfield Green may feel like the back of nowhere, but proximity to the A20 combined with the tranquillity of the North Downs, makes this ancient Wealden hall house a popular destination. Visitors greatly appreciate the excellent Kentish ales, the fine hospitality and the rather good country cooking.

The Red Lion, Stodmarsh

Modest at first glance, this fine, congenial pub is popular with birdwatchers and walkers, and is noted for real ales tapped direct from the barrel. Inside, its ancient, tiny rooms have their full quota of low ceilings, stone and wood floors, hop garlands and candles on wood tables; a real find.

Kent waterside - iStock_000019112078Small_Kent.jpg

Swan on the Green, West Peckham

With almost 500 years of history and a storybook location overlooking the village green, this is a pub with all the right ingredients. It’s a place for real ale drinkers, too – the astonishing range of beers from the microbrewery out back draws both locals and enthusiasts from the CAMRA brigade.

The Three Chimneys, Biddenden

This centuries-old country treasure does higgledy-piggledy rooms, beams and open fires better than just about anyone, yet never ignores its roots, taking beer seriously and reserving the main bar exclusively for drinkers. Ales are procured from across the country and tapped straight from the cask; a real gem.

The Three Mariners, Oare

Hole up in this rustic, relaxed village hostelry after a brisk walk across Oare marshes and you’ll find it almost impossible to leave. The big main bar is the hub, bursting with character, a fire crackling away, ales from the nearby Shepherd Neame brewery, and first-class cooking based on local, seasonal ingredients. What more could you want?

The Tiger Inn, Stowting

This is an honest, old-fashioned country pub with a cracking atmosphere. Log fires burn in winter and there’s good drinking with ales from Kent-based Old Dairy and Hop Fuzz Breweries, plus a 13% special reserve Kentish cider fermented and matured in oak whisky casks.

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