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The Guildhall, 42 The Bayle, Folkestone, Kent
Real ale drinkers in the Folkestone area, listen up! A wonderful thing has happened to this seaside town where decent pubs are few and far between. Stuart and Gilly Gresswell, expert and charming proprietors of the Sportsman's Bar at the Sports Centre (see previous review), have departed that venue to take over the Guildhall. And what an excellent move it was!
First of all, the Guildhall is a very nice, comfortable, classy, and inviting town pub situated in the historic Bayle among quiet old buildings. If you stroll just up the Bayle past the pond and around the corner you'll reach the stately St. Eanswythe Parish Church with a fascinating graveyard which will make my fellow necropolitan aficionados drool with envy. A block down the Bayle in the other direction from the pub you'll find yourself in the heart of the pedestrian shopping district. And around the corner at the end of the Parade there are steps leading down to the Harbour.
So what better place to sit and watch life while sipping a pint of excellent real ale? On a pleasant day you can do this out front in the beer garden, especially if you have any children accompanying you because they aren't allowed inside the bar. But for those souls sans kids the bar is the most entertaining place to be. Here you can sit and chat with Stuart and Gilly, not to mention their sons Ian and Tommy and occasionally their lovely dog Charlie, and this is pub entertainment at its finest. The regular pub patrons are interesting as well and extremely varied.
But I know what you're asking right now: so what about the real ale? Well, there are usually four different selections available at any time, and each of them can be guaranteed to be in excellent condition. Stuart is a real ale lover himself, and I've found if a landlord loves his beer the beer is bound to be good. And even though this is a Pubmasters pub, Stuart has managed to locate a wide variety of real ales so far. Since their opening seven weeks ago we've tasted quite a few including Greene King IPA (3.6% ABV, Greene King, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk), Greene King Abbot Ale (5.0% ABV), Young's Special Bitter (4.6% ABV, Young & Co. Brewery, Wandsworth, London), Bass Ale (4.4% ABV, Bass Brewers Ltd., Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire), Adnams Best (3.7% ABV, Adnams and Co., Southwold, Suffolk), Adnams Broadside (4.7% ABV), Marston Pedigree Bitter (4.5% ABV, Marston, Thompson & Evershed, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire), Hancock's HB (3.6% ABV, Bass Brewers Ltd., Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire), and Wadworth 6X (4.3% ABV). Since I've tasted and written about all these beers before and I always get distracted by the Gresswells I'm afraid I don't have any current tasting notes, but I can assure you every pint has been superb and enjoyable. And the preliminary Ruddles County Bitter we had was a straightforward and soft brew, very calming for that particularly hot and humid day.
And the food is excellent as well. Gilly's macaroni and cheese is the best I've ever had, and that's saying a lot when I'm driven to profess it even surpasses the orgasmic special I lunched on at Jack's Bistro in Seattle years ago. Yes, this is a macaroni and cheese that would please even the most bloodthirsty of carnivores while bringing tears of joy to devout vegetarians; it is truly righteous. Gilly's spaghetti bolognase is reportedly excellent as well, and her jacket potatoes and baguettes are of the highest quality. Yes, Gilly is proving to be one of the better pub chefs I've experienced, and I can't wait to taste her curries. (Other items include burgers, honey-roasted ham, all-day breakfasts, three kinds of fish and chips, pizza, chilli con carne, and ravioli, and the menu is probably evolving as you read this.)
Interestingly enough the Guildhall, which is now owned by Pubmasters, used to be called the Globe Hotel, and a Pizza Hut nearby used to be a pub called the Guildhall. That original Guildhall was located next door to the Town Hall, which is what a "guild hall" actually is. I believe the Town Hall is now a Waterstone's Bookshop -- or is it where the old cinema was? No, wait a minute -- what's there now? Where are the Seventh Day Adventists? Across the street? Or are they the ones skinnydipping in the pond? This is all very confusing...perhaps it's all those wonderful pints we keep insisting on having every time we pass by the Guildhall.
After all, we're only human.
(Last updated 12th December 2001)
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