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Previous Pint Pleasures - November 21, 2000

guinness eileen

The Jolly Sailor, 75 Northgate, Canterbury, Kent

guinness eileen

Compasses Inn, Sole Street, Crundale, Kent

From what I've heard there are several good pubs in the cathedral city of Canterbury. Sadly I have yet to visit any of them. I suppose the reason for this is because I don't make it to Canterbury very often.

Earlier this year we found ourselves in Canterbury for a lunchtime concert, part of a local guitar festival. Naturally this made us quite thirsty, so we stopped at the first pub we came to with real ale. Unfortunately this was the Jolly Sailor. Not that it's a terribly bad pub; but with all the gaudy pre-printed signs plastered everywhere we almost thought we'd walked into a Wetherspoon's or other commercial pub chain. The huge, slickly printed and oddly shaped lunch menus were suspicious, too -- rather like something you'd find at a Travel Inn pub or perhaps even a Little Chef. What surprised me was when I spotted the rack of CAMRA literature on the window sill. Was this some sort of joke?

We quenched our thirst with quite ordinary pints of Boddingtons on the hand pump (3.8% ABV, Boddingtons Strangeways Brewery, Manchester). I suppose this was adequate enough relief after nearly missing our concert due to confusing street signs and directions along with extremely confused and obviously colourblind road workers. After dribbling a bit of my pint on the table I discovered there were no beer mats or towels in the pub, either, which seems a bit unusual for a place with such a big sloppy feel. Since we were hungry as well as thirsty we ordered lunch off the massively flashy menus. Our burgers (regular and spicy bean) were okay, but the huge mountains of pre-frozen chips were impressively mediocre.

On a more recent but equally confusing day we had a much more satisfying experience near Canterbury. Although somewhat difficult to find, the unhelpfully-named Compasses Inn is well worth the search. Once you find your way to the village of Crundale -- located between Ashford and Canterbury and between the A28 and B2068 -- the easiest thing to do at that point is to stop and ask somebody how to get to the pub. You'll be directed to Sole Street, which is a village separate from Crundale, so it's all a bit confusing, especially for a logical computer type like myself. I suppose it conforms to a Zen sort of logic: we're in Crundale, therefore we must be in Sole Street.

Ahh, but grasshopper, it matters not what village you come to as long as there is a good pub. And the Compasses is a pleasant 15th-century country pub, friendly and warm and cosily welcome for three desperately thirsty travellers on a Sunday afternoon. On this particular weekend the pub was hosting a beer festival and barbecue in a tent out back. But we sought out the comfort of the pub itself, squeezing ourselves into the narrow front bar and sipping pints of London Pride (4.1%, Fuller, Smith, and Turner, London, ). Considering my friend and I had spent the morning waiting for Emergency Services to come jumpstart the car after finding the battery dead just as we were due to drive to Ashford to pick up an American friend of mine arriving at the train station, and without benefit of mobile phones we had to make a series of phone calls around the entire British rail network in order to leave an ultimately mysterious page at the Ashford station telling Barb that her party had "broken down," the fact that we'd finally managed to locate each other was reason enough to celebrate with a nice pint at a pleasingly authentic pub.

So the next time you find yourself lost or otherwise stressed out in the North Downs, try to find your way to the Compasses Inn. You deserve a break.

Compasses Inn Updates
(Last updated 1st October 2001)