The sun always shines on North Kent, which explains why Whitstable was again packed mid-week with London daytrippers in search of pashminas, panna cotta and Prosecco. It really is my favourite bit of Islington.
While it lacks the marsh walks of nearby Faversham, you can construct some decent rambles around Tankerton, but really it’s a place to slow down and explore the beautiful houses along the Island Wall.
The Old Neptune looks a great seafront pub, one of several along the Wall doing good trade before those clouds arrived, but even a Sheps fan like me balked at paying premium prices for Master Brew in a plastic glass.
As touristy as it is, Whitstable still feels (smells) like a working town in a way that, say, Southwold no longer does, and the harbour itself isn’t as glossy as the High Street (yet).
The beer scene has always been a secondary concern here, and the closure of the Four Horseshoes meant the town lost its basic, classic Sheps pub.
In two years since my last visit it’s found some life, with three newish places along the High Street, which remains one of the UK’s most colourful if not actually selling useful things. The Black Dog, new in this year’s Guide, is one of the highlights.
My Mum would find this a bit cluttered, and stick to the Wetherspoons, but I loved the décor, a mix of Victoriana, Breaking Bad and Bass.
An excellent Kent Pale (NBSS 3.5) was the best choice from a larger than usual range. Oakham, along with Titanic’s Plum Porter, appears to be the Doom Bar of the micro world.
Two rows of tables allow you to interact with or hide from the wonderful owner, a West Ham fan who was immensely confident about tonight’s Cup replay with United. Plenty of great pub chat about troublesome pubgoers and potent scotch eggs, typical Whitstable stuff then.
Just as good was the even newer Handsome Sam, whose key features I’ve failed to capture in the photo below.
The Sam gets a thumbs-up just for staying open beyond published hours to sell me beer (Caveman, NBSS 3), and another one for cheerful publican of the year. A United fan, he was immensely confident about doing the Hammers in the Cup replay tonight.
There might have been a third micro (of sorts), but The Twelve Taps is (excellent) coffee only till 4pm. A decent craft keg menu from the usual suspects.
So time before the train to catch up with Whitstable’s classic town pub, and the local Pub of the Year.
The Ship Centurion does the simple things very well, including an Adnams better than Southwold’s pubs managed last year (NBSS 4) and classic pub seating. The German touches (Konig, Erdinger and weekend Schnitzel) are very understated. Not surprisingly the busiest pub in town, even at 4pm.
Whitstable transformed as a pub town, the micro magic spreading westward from Thanet.