Showing posts with label Folkestone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Folkestone. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

What I learned at the weekend

I was briefly in Folkestone for a shopping run last weekend. The first time in ages.

Not much had changed in Folkestone. But something had on the way. And not for the better. We usually stop at the first service station on the E17 after Antwerp. It's about half way to the chunnel. I've got into the habit of picking up a couple of cans of Gordon's Finest Gold there, which, at 10% ABV, is the perfect breakfast beer.

Sadly, they no longer seem to sell it. Or Leffe Bruin. Now it's all Pils except for a few cans of Hoegaarden and Palm. Bastards. Completing the trip beerless wasn't on, leaving me no alternative but to get two cans of Jupiler. At least they were half litres. But Jupiler's never going to warm your belly the way Gordon's does. Warm belly and fuzzied-up head. Just what I want before lunch.

We always stay at the Portland Hotel. Which handily has a pub on the ground floor. Good enough reason to have a few beers while checking in. No cask beer, but they do have bottled London Pride. That'll do me. Luggage dumped, it was time to head to Asda for pies, salt and vinegar crisps, cider, cheese, Scotch pancakes and bacon. Now there's a properly balanced meal.

On the way back, I thought I may as well check out The Chambers, a Good Beer Guide-listed basement pub. They usually have some local beers on cask. As they did on Saturday. A dark number from Gadd's. Perfect. Especially with an accompanying double Bells. Or two.

Refreshed and loaded with shopping, it was time to return to the Portland to meet Mikey. Where I had another couple of London Prides before we decided eating might be a good idea. Fortunately, not only does Folkestone have a proper chippie, there's also a licensed fish restaurant at the back. Where I had pie, chips and mushy peas and a can of Guinness.

Once I'd polished of my health-food supper, it was back on the lash. This time in Harveys, another basement pub. Not the most exciting beer selection, but the Courage Best is usually in decent nick. I knocked back a few of those while Mikey got stuck into some Strongbow. After a few pints Mikey went off to the Tesco Express for a few bits and bobs, leaving me to have a few more Courage Bests while I waited for him. And waited. It turned into quite a few Courage Bests before I realised he wasn't coming back. He's done this before, crawling off to sleep mid session.

I went back to the hotel to see if he was in the pub there. Time for a few more London Prides and a dance. Until I realised my legs weren't working that well. Must have been all the walking. Time for bed.

What did I learn? That, with enough time and a bit of determination, it's possible to get legless on watery British beer. Even for a pisshead like me.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

An afternoon in Folkestone

We start fairly early, at 08:15, on Linaeusstraat. I nip into the bakery and get a broodje gezond. Lekker, hoor.

It being Saturday morning, the roads aren't bad at all. Just after Antwerp, we stop at a service station. Mikey has a dump and I pick up, true to tradition, three cans of Gordon Finest Gold. Slightly superior tramp juice. Perfect to get me in the mood. But I've made a slight miscalculation and all three are drained before we get on the chunnel shuttle. I'll remember to get four next time.

13 minutes after pulling off the train we arrive at our hotel. Thirty seconds after that, pints are in front of us. Just a bottle of London Pride for me, as the Scuba Bar sells no cask. Mikey quickly disappears off to London. I've a free afternoon. A good chance to visit the real ale pubs he hates.

After a stroll down the high street, I dive into the Wetherspoons. It's in what looks like a former Methodist chapel. Mikey definitely won't come in here. I can see his point. It is a bit of a dump. I order a Whitstable Brewery Kentish Reserve. I am in Kent, after all.

My beer is very dark. If it's supposed to be a Bitter. At 5%, who knows? I'm not in style nazi mode (am I ever?). What do I care? It's just about drinkable. Just. About 5 minutes away from Sarson's. I do something I very, very, very rarely do: I leave it unfinished. Those Gordons have got me nicely warmed up. No need to knock back crap just for the sake of it.

Just before entering Wetherspoons, I spotted a pub I'd not visited before, the Guildhall. It's my next stop. Inside is mobbed by diners, but I find a stool at the bar. I order a Titanic Lifboat. This is definitely in Mild country, colour-wise. [RateBeer classifies it as a Bitter. So a Bitter it is. The brewery describe it as "fruity and malty,red brown bittersweet beer". Nicely unspecific about style.] If I'm not mistaken, it tastes like there are some American citrus hops in there. Bit weird, but at least it isn't going off faster than a runaway TGV.

Knacked. Je suis un peu knackré. Don't know why. It's Mikey who's been driving for 3.5 hours.

The landlord is trying very hard. Maybe this is one of his most profitable sessions. It reminds me why I wouldn't want to run a pub. I couldn't keep up the front of friendliness all day. I'd be the traditional miserable bastard type of publican.

I do finish my pint of Lifeboat. Then head on to my next stop, the British Lion. I've been here before. Eaten here, too. Quite a nice Sunday dinner, it was. I order an Adnam Gunhill. This one has both feet and its arse in Mild-land. British brewers - can't they decide what style they're making? Bastards. They just brew what they feel like and call it Bitter. Or nothing.

It tastes OK. But has that funny mouth-coating thing. Probably the best pint so far. Strong Mild, that's what I've decided to call it. So I have to like it. there. [RateBeer has it down as a Mild. Adnams website describes it as "as a cross between a dark mild and an old fashioned brown ale". That's cleared things up.]

Next it's the turn of the Pullman. It still smells of paint from its recent refurbishment. In the smoky old days, it would have just stunk of fags after the first session. Two blokes at the bar ask jokingly if I'm following them around. They'd been in the Guildhall.

I'm served a pint of Harvey's best, served by a fit young Polish barmaid. Does life get any better? It has the enchanting farty smell of an authentic Bitter. Deliciotastic.

It's a proper pint of Bitter. Like it used to taste when I were a lad in the 1920's. (I feel sometimes as if  I grew up in the 1920's. Too much time spent looking through old books.

The final call on my mini pub-crawl is Chambers. Down in a basement. Hey daddy - o, I don't wanna go down in the basement.

"A pint of Mild, please." "I haven't said that in a while" I quip to the barman. My repartee is shit. Finally something not Mild-like, but the real thing. Rudgate Ruby Mild. A bit generic, to be honest. But still Mild. I feel like I've done my bit for Mild Month March. Self-satisfaction keeps me warm as I wait on the freezing terrace of the Scuba Bar for the Asda delivery man to arrive.

Skuba Bar
2-4 Langhorne Gardens,
Kent CT20 2EA.
Tel: 01303 251 444‎

23 Rendezvous Street,
Folkestone CT20 1EY.
Tel: 01303 251 154

The Guildhall
42 The Bayle,
Folkestone CT20 1SQ.
Tel: 01303 251 393

The British Lion
8-10 The Bayle
Folkestone CT20 1SQ.
Tel: 01303 251 478

The Pullman
7 Church Street,
Folkestone CT20 1SE.
Tel: 07801 859 592

The Chambers
Radnor Chambers,
Cheriton Place,
Folkestone CT20 2BB.
Tel: 01303 223 333

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Offline in Folkestone

You may have noticed a lack of comment moderation over the weekend. There was a simple reason. I was offline in England. 48 hours without internet access. Not as scary as I'd feared.

I'd tell you about the weird and exotic beers I drank. I really would. If I'd drunk any. But it wasn't that type of trip. London Pride, Courage Best and Guinness. That was it. And I had no less a good time because of that.

Folkestone is my guilty pleasure. A place where, on Friday and Saturday night, the hems are high and the décolletés deep. Mikey loves that. I quite like it, too, though not for quite the same reasons. I'm far too old and married to be on the pull. It's nice that people make the effort. The folks in Folkestone make Amsterdammers look a very dowdy bunch.

Folkestone's pubs aren't the most historic, stylish or exclusive. No gastropubs or trendy bars. Just normal pubs for normal people. Places where I can lock up my inner beer geek and be just a punter like everyone else. Because there's a lot more to a Saturday night out than the beer or even the surroundings. It's all about having a laugh and yes, having a few more drinks than you really should. An escape from the endless drudgery of the working week. Why should we feel guilty about that?

No photos with the post. I left my camera at home. With my notebook. In any case, Lexie needed the camera for his latest stop-frame animation project.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The dangers of cider

Did I mention I made a flying visit to Britain at the weekend? 22 hours in Folkestone. What fun.

It was mostly just a shopping trip. Not that we actually had to go into a shop. We ordered everything online and had it delivered to our hotel. Groovetastic. More time for drinking. But . . . .

Things started out well. With an English breakfast for lunch. We were headed to the British Lion, when we noticed that the Pullman had reopened. Seeing how many handpulls were on the bar, it seemed churlish to just walk past.

Inside was heavy with the smell of paint. A sure sign they hadn't been reopened long. "Last week", the barman said. A couple of my favourites were on the bar. Harvey's Sussex Bitter and Taylor's Landlord. Decisions, decisions. I went for the former as, bizarrely, Landlord is more common in the South. Rather nice, it was. Mikey, as usual. Was on the cider. Addlestones's cloudy.

While Mikey went off to buy shoes, I got myself a Landlord. To pass the time, I flicked through "More Tales from the Taproom." A book that was lying around on a table. It documents all the pubs past and present in the Folkestone area. Much to my surprise, I learned that the Pullman had only been a pub since the 1960's. I would never have guessed that.

We had another couple of pints affter Mikey returned with his 16 quid shoes. Then made our way back to our hotel for our shopping delivery. "How strong's that cider? I feel a bit tipsy" "No idea. But I had one in Glasgow that was 7%." "That must be why I'm feeling it."

The delivery window was from 17:00 to 19:00. It turned up at 18:50. By which time we'd had a couple more pints and a couple of shots. The latter some weird concoctions assembled by the barman. The first was a funny brown colour. The second black with some pink stuff floating on the top. Looked a bit girly to me.

Mikey was pretty cheerful by the time the van pulled up with goodies. Positively merry, in fact. I dumped my stuff in the coolbox in my room and ambled back down to the bar. No sign of Mikey. I ordered myself a London Pride and waited a while. Still no sign of Mikey. That's odd, I thought. When my pint was done, I went upstairs and banged on his door. No response. Oh well. Best get back to the bar. I tried his door again one London Pride later. Still nothing.

What could I do? You must know the answer to that one. Hit a few more pubs on my own then buy a pie at the chippie.

There was a knock on my door at 09:15. It was Mikey. "What did we do last night? I can't remember anything. Did I behave myself?" At this point I should have made up a scary tale of lewdness and debauchery, where a night in the cells was avoided by a hair's breadth. But I hadn't been up long. So I told him the truth: "You went to bed at 19:30."

Ah, the dangers of cider.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

One night in Folkestone

Did I mention that I was in England at the weekend? Two nights in sunny Folkestone. Mikey drove us over to celebrate his birthday in blighty.

After a handful of visits, I've taken quite a shine to Folkestone. It's neither the prettiest nor liveliest nor most cosmopolitan English town. But it has a pleasant atmosphere and the locals are friendly.

We didn't have much of a plan. Stock up on pies, sausages, bacon and tea. Then get pissed. It's best not to overreach yourself. We achieved all of our modest goals. And it didn't cost the earth. Britain is so cheap nowadays, with the quid hardly worth more than the euro. Two nights in a hotel with breakfast and a 3-course evening meal included cost me a piddling 75 euros. I even had a sea view.

"What about beer, Ronald?" I hear you ask. Well there was plenty of that. Of very varied quality. It was Mikey's birthday, after all. I wasn't going to say "I'm not drinking in there, they've no handpumps." Sometimes it's nice to let beer play a supporting role. Despite the impression I may sometimes give, it doesn't yet completely dominate my every waking moment.

Mikey asked the barman in the pub attached to our hotel, the Skuba Bar, where the action was. We'd already seen a dozen groups of dangerously scantily-dressed lasses come and go. They were obviously on a circuit. A circuit we wanted to ride around, too. "Go left along the seafront. There's The Office, that's nice. A bit further along there's the Leas Club. It's full of kids and the carpets sticky, but it's OK. If you really want to make a night of it there's the Party Bar down by the harbour. That's open until three." Sounded good to me.

I finished my bottle of London Pride, Mikey knocked back his Strongbow and off we went. The Office wasn't far. I usually don't care for bouncers on the doors of pubs. But the rotund chap in black at The Office was very friendly. Welcoming, even. Inside it was modern, a bit loud and full of kids. Until we arrived, at least. We found a table in a corner next to a pair of Polish girls.

I was surprised to spot a lone handpump on the bar. Even more surprised that not only was it in use, but that the London Pride it dispensed was pretty good. While I was getting served, I savoured a glimpse of Man United's humiliation at the feet of Liverpool.

After two pints, it was time to move on. The ball-shaped bouncer gave us some advice on further destinations on our way out. What a nice chap. Leas Club. That was the next stop. After a few yards there it was: Leas Bar. In a hotel. "Non-residents welcome" the sign said. Our arrival coincided with that of a coachful of Lancastrian pensioners. A bit odd if the bar, as the Skuba barman had said, was full of kids.

The Leas Bar wasn't full of anything apart from air. No cask beer and a weird atmosphere. A pair of geriatrics were fiddling with a sound system. One of the most depressing places I've been in ages. Like a really shit mid-1970's working men's club. Without exchanging a word, Mikey and I walked straight on out again. Now there's a rarity. Me leaving a pub without having a drink.

After a few more metres we realised our mistake. When we came across the Leas Club.

Despite being called a club, there was no entrance fee. As we reached the bottom of the steps leading down to the dance floor we were swept off our feet by a tsunami warm air, damp with teenage sweat. Loud thumpy-thumpy beats were pulsing out of the speaker stacks and a stack of young limbs were thrashing around wildly. Just what Mikey had wanted.

As I walked to the bar, the carpet sucked at my shoes, as if spread with marmelade. Ahh. this must be the place Skuba barman meant. What happy memories it brought back of the Esplanade in Melbourne, proud home of the world's stickiest carpet. The one in Leas had a way to go to match the Esplanade's glory, but it was definitely on the way. Just give it another couple of decades without redecoration.

There was little action behind the bar. The staff, of which there was at least half a dozen, were all hiding in a corner. I hate waiting for beer. When I finally had a pint of chilly Guinness in my paw, I felt the glass vibrating to the pumped up bass. Why hadn't I taken any cotton wool with me? Out of practice clubbing, I guess.

It's been a while since I've seen such an enthusiastic and unselfconscious crowd of dancers. A few looked even old enough to have left school. If you watch British TV or read British newspapers, you might be led to believe that towns centres are like Paris in 1968, but without the politics. That youngsters, pumped up on drugs and booze rampage the streets, leaving a trail of broken windows and bones in their wake. This lot seemed remarkably good-humoured. Especially as quite a few were having issues with walking or even keeping upright.

Before I left, Andrew had been worried by my plans. "Don't go to a nightclub, dad. People have knives there." He's watched too many finger-wagging documentaries about The Youth of Today. "Please dad, promise me you won't go to a nightclub." I didn't go to a nightclub. I went to two.

When the gyrators on the floor began to thin, we again moved on. A short taxi ride down the hill to the Party Bar. Before entering, Mikey insisted on lining his stomach. Luckily, there was a kebab shop a couple of doors away. Amongst the faded posters of Turkish holiday resorts was a sign saying "We will not tolerate racist abuse". Not a great sign. I suppose that's the price you have to pay for catering for the late-night crowd. The staff were friendly, but clearly on their guard.

Outside the club, one of the smokers spoke to Mikey. "Did you used to drink down the Old Kent Road?" "Yes, but that was nearly 20 years ago." "I never forget a face." They then discussed down-at-heal Southeast London boozers from the late 1980's for a while.

Inside, the Party Bar was as boisterouos and good-natured as the Leas Club. The crowd was more mixed, though. I was pleased to see that for once I wasn't the oldest in the room. That honour went to the old chav with the walking stick. Early 70's, I reckon. He was doing about as much dancing as me. To give him his due, he was at least standing. After a day pubcrawling, I needed to rest my feet.

With the night almost over, Mikey managed to pull. I don't know how he does it, the smooth-talking bastard.

We didn't quite make it to chucking out time, calling it a night at 02:30. Not so bad considering I'd seriously craved my bed at 08:30.