Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Tonbridge Crawl

A couple of weeks ago we had one of the best turnouts for a mid-week CAMRA social that most of us can remember. The event was a tour of a few selected Tonbridge pubs; pubs we perhaps might not normally go to. We kicked off at the Ivy House at the top end of the High Street. This 350 year old inn re-opened earlier last year after an extensive refurbishment. It is now somewhat of a foodie’s pub, with links to Michelin Star Chef, John Burton-Race. It certainly wasn’t packed out with diners on a damp Wednesday evening, and only had Harvey's Best on sale. The barman though, must have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of beer he sold in a short space of time. Seventeen of us amounted to over two gallons of ale! I must say that the Harvey's was in good condition, although a tad expensive at £3.20 a pint!

We then moved on to the Wharf, in Lyons Crescent. This converted former wharf building has been through several changes since it first opened as a Beefeater Restaurant back in the mid-1980’s. I have fond memories of its time as a Hogshead Alehouse, when it offered a wide range of real ales direct from casks kept behind the bar. In more recent times it had stopped selling cask beer, changed its name to the Wharf and become something of a young persons haunt. Now it is good to see the Wharf back in the real-ale camp.

That night, there were two cask ales on offer; Adnams Old and London Pride. There was some doubt that the former was Old Ale, as it certainly wasn’t the dark colour this style of beer should have been. The London Pride was quite drinkable though, and just before we left the bar staff put on a third ale – Black Sheep Best. The pub didn’t seem to have changed all that much since its Hogshead days and is definitely a place worth keeping an eye on.

Our third port of call was Mojo’s, at the back of the station. Again this is a pub that has a couple of name changes. For many years it was called the South Eastern, but in more recent times it was known as the Station House and unfortunately acquired a bit of a bad reputation. Now a recent refurbishment and change of name has given the pub a new lease of life. Decorated in a modern, minimalist style, Mojo’s was selling Harvey’s Best alongside Sharp’s Doom Bar on the night of our visit.

Time was getting on so we moved on to the last pub of the evening, the Punch & Judy in St Stephen’s Street. This is yet another pub that has seen several changes of name, being formerly known as the Gardener’s Arms. The Punch hit the headlines just over a year ago, when the then landlord, Mr Colm Powell, went on hunger strike in protest at the high rent being charged by the owning pub-company. He was pictured in several national newspapers lying in a coffin, symbolising the "Death of the English Pub". Since Colm's departure there has been a succession of landlords. When we called in, Young’s Bitter and the ubiquitous Doom Bar were the ales on offer, but unfortunately the former was way past its best and had to be returned. It was replaced, without question by mine host, and several of us got stuck into the Doom Bar whilst a fresh cask of Young’s was brought into service.

So ended a most enjoyable and highly successful tour of Tonbridge, during which we were pleasantly surprised by what these four pubs had to offer.


Richard said...

The first two look like great little places - doesn't mean a thing if the beer's sh*te though. ;-)

Mark said...

I missed this one when you posted it... It mirrors my post about a Tonbridge crawl but you managed three pubs I haven't drunk in yet. The Ivy House, as you know, is my closest bar but I've not been in there. The Wharf is literally opposite my work but never had a drink in there (been inside to see what was on, but that's all) and Mojos is linked to the College so I should've been but haven't - now that I know they have cask ale on I am a little more tempted!

I still haven't been to the Sheps pub by the petrol station/College. Is that worth visiting?