Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Elm Tree - Paddock Wood

The area of the county covered by West Kent CAMRA is quite substantial. Granted it’s not as large as some branches have to manage, particularly in the more sparsely populated areas of Britain, but there are still parts of our area which receive very little in the way of local support from CAMRA.

The small town of Paddock Wood is one such place, despite it having a good rail service, and the surrounding rural area seems at times, almost unknown territory. The town’s name cropped up during a discussion at last week’s branch business meeting, when a committee member put forward a rural pub which he thought worthy of further consideration.

The pub in question was the Elm Tree; a short drive from the centre of Paddock Wood, but in quite an isolated situation. A number of us agreed we should check it out, so after having breakfast at the Causeway Hall in Chiddingstone Causeway, my son and I decided to pay the pub a visit.

I have been to the Elm Tree a couple of times before, and the last time I called in it has a rather non-descript Shepherd Neame pub. I was therefore rather pleased  to discover the pub is now a free-house. It stands on a staggered junction on the quirkily-named  Mile Oak Road, and now looks far more appealing than it did during its time under Shep’s.

For a start the exterior has been painted an attractive creamy-yellow colour, rather than the corporate white which is used for most Shep’s houses. We pulled up in the car-park, pausing to look at the attractive garden area, before making our way inside. Apart from a lone punter sitting at the bar we were the first customers. The interior seemed bright and stylish, and there was a log burner blazing away to our left which provided a welcoming warmth.

The bar was adorned by four hand pumps offering the choice between Whitstable Bay Pale, Old Dairy Red Top and two beers from Tonbridge Brewery; Capel Pale and Countryman. I opted for the Red Top, Matt went for a strange hybrid called Spitfire Lager.

My beer was very good, so I’d imagine the landlord had correctly pulled some through at the start of the session. I don’t know what Matt’s was like, but he did finish before me. We had a brief look round, noticing that virtually all the tables had been laid out for diners, along with the names of those who had booked Sunday lunch.

There were a couple of stools at the bar, so we grabbed those along with a bag of Piper’s Crisps each. As we sat there chatting, the first party of diners arrived, followed closely by the second. At this point the landlord’s wife/partner appeared from behind the bar and began taking drinks orders.

I noticed a number of things whilst this was going on, the first of which that most of the diners opted for red wine to drink; either that or lager. The cask ales were all priced at £3.60 a pint, as there was a notice to this effect. Apart from me, only one other customer was drinking cask, and he was on the Capel Pale (good choice!).

The Elm Tree is obviously a popular destination for Sunday lunch, and at just £10.99 a head this was perhaps not surprising. Being a relatively small pub, booking is essential; especially for the Sunday roast. It states this on the pub website, and we saw for ourselves that a family had to be turned away as they hadn’t booked.

I must say I liked it and will definitely return. According to Google Maps it is just over a mile’s walk from Paddock Wood station and apart from a short stretch at the end, there is pavement all the way.

The owners seem to be doing everything right; the pub is nice and clean, there is a friendly welcome from behind the bar, the beer I had was good (3.0 NBSS), and I’m sure the food is equally good. I have already reported this back to my CAMRA colleagues.

There was just one thing bothering me though and that was the  presence of a large sign outside the pub stating “Public House. New lease available. To Let”. I didn’t enquire as to why, but according to the estate agent’s website, the pub is “Available to be let by way of a new lease for a term by agreement at £12,000 per annum payable quarterly in advance”.

“Alternatively, the owners will consider other commercial uses, whether catering or business use, subject to planning consent”.  

The reasons for putting the pub up to let, are thus still unclear, but when compared with other commercial premises, the rent appears cheap. Whatever the reason though, it is annoying to have found a decent pub, which is relatively easy to get to and which combines a pleasant rural outlook with a good beer and food offering.

C’est la vie, as they say!


Russtovich said...

In good weather it looks like a nice destination; a short train ride, a short walk and good beer and nosh. So yep, agree that it looks a bit odd to be available for lease (especially as the Sunday Roast was fairly busy).

They need to update the website a wee bit, as you said your pint was £3.60 while one of the rotating photos on the website shows £3.20. :)

Also, pardon my ignorance but is going out for dinner on Christmas Day a big think in the UK? Or are those Christmas dinner menus something that is on over the holiday period?


Paul Bailey said...

Hi Russ, going out for dinner on Christmas Day is definitely NOT a big thing here in the UK. You can go out, if you wish, but you will pay through the nose for food which is mediocre at best.

Also, seeing as Christmas dinner is just a glorified roast, why pay someone to cook it and someone to serve it to you; especially as they'd rather be at home with their families, instead of watching you stuffing your face.

I know things are different in North America, as my sister and her family always dine out on Christmas day. No reflection on my sister's cooking, of course!

The Christmas menus you see are normally for companies, clubs or groups of friends who want to get together to celebrate Christmas, prior to the day itself.

ps. Like Martin, I shall be glad when it's all over; even though it's hardly started yet!

Russtovich said...

"The Christmas menus you see are normally for companies, clubs or groups of friends who want to get together to celebrate Christmas, prior to the day itself."

Thanks for clearing that up.

And, no offense to your sister, but most people I know don't go out for Christmas dinner either. We've always had Christmas dinner at home.

To be fair to your sister Thanksgiving in America is bigger than Christmas for family get togethers.

And I like Christmas. Not the frantic shopping mall crap but the quietly relaxing at home with a beer. ��