CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> Four Travel Inn Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - April 16, 2001

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The Brickfield, Travel Inn, Cherry Garden Lane, Folkestone, Kent

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The Plough, Travel Inn, Folkestone Road, Dover, Kent

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The Sir Thomas Wyatt, Travel Inn, London Road, Allington, Maidstone, Kent

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Potter's, Travel Inn, North Terminal, Longbridge Way, Gatwick Airport, Crawley, West Sussex

Regular readers of my column may have been suspecting I'd either died or wandered off into Real Ale Oblivion. Never fear -- I've simply been swamped with things to do and travelling a lot, not to mention battling a bad sinus infection. I have discovered a couple new pubs, but I'll write about them next time. Since this is Easter Weekend, a four-day holiday here in Europe, I'm going to take it easy and catch up on some old notes.

Anybody travelling with their families across the UK motorways, whether on holiday weekends or otherwise, will have experienced a Travel Inn at some point, whether you've actually booked a room for the night or simply popped into the motel pub for an enroute refreshment. Like the inevitable Little Chef, the Travel Inn pubs are fairly predictable and will offer little in the way of surprises. If you have time to travel well off the motorway in search of more interesting village pubs, then by all means do so; this is by far the preferable option. But if you're pressed for time and very thirsty, you might find an okay pint at a Travel Inn pub. This could vary quite a bit in quality, though.

At the Folkestone Travel Inn the Brickfield pub is part of the Brewer's Fayre chain, offering fairly average-quality meals. Since they serve lunch all afternoon I actually stopped in for food on a couple of occasions with a friend when we found ourselves simultaneously starving and in need of a pint at a very inconvenient 4:00 in the afternoon. Both times we had pints of Brakes Bitter, served too cold but still a decent pint: smooth, level, and vertical. When Brakes is a bit less cold it can be a satisfying pint.

At the Travel Inn just west of Dover the Plough, a Beefeaters pub, offered a bit more entertaining environment, simply because a Dutch family was allegedly having a meal as we sipped our pints of Wadworth 6X (4.3% ABV, Ushers of Trowbridge, Devizes, Wiltshire). The beer was velvety sweet, bringing to mind raspberry-coloured velour . The Dutch family, on the other hand, brought to mind a perpetual motion machine: at any given moment during our hour and a half visit at least one member of the two-parent two-son family was walking around. In fact, I can't be certain if any of them actually sat to eat their meals. Why is it the Dutch have this need for constant perambulation? Are they like tuna, who have to swim constantly in order to breathe? I remember seeing a couple of Dutch coaches on the motorway. In both cases, as the coach sped down the road, I could see people walking around inside. Must be a Dutch thing.

But enough about nonsedentary cultures. In Maidstone we once stopped at another Travel Inn Beefeaters pub, the Sir Thomas Wyatt. Much like the previous two pubs, this place serves its beer too cold. Our pints of Wadworth 6X were a bit treacly but at the same time dry -- in other words, schizophrenic.

At best most of the Travel Inn pubs offer some form of real ale. If you're flying in or out of Gatwick, though, don't even think about stopping at Potter's, the Travel Inn pub by the North Terminal. Not only is there no real ale available -- Boddingtons Smooth Flow was the best we could do -- but the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired and the food is probably the most atrocious food I've ever experienced anywhere. Whereas the Brewers Fayre chain of Travel Inn pubs boasts a simple "great pub food at great value prices" and Beefeater's website advertises their "big love for British Food", the Potter's chain's motto, for some unexplainable reason, is "Delicious, mouthwatering, tasty, tempting". Believe me, you won't come close to any of these words when you eat at Potter's. As I recall from a one-night's stay where we suffered both dinner and breakfast at Potter's, both the carrots and the omelette tasted exactly the same, as if they'd been soaked in water for several months to remove all traces of taste or texture. And the salmon was overcooked and had no flavour. If you like food which tastes like distilled water you might enjoy this place. Otherwise, well, just don't go near it. Please!