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Review: The Bull Inn, St Paul’s Cray
There aren’t too many pubs on my patch I haven’t stepped into, but The Bull Inn, St Paul’s Cray is one of them.
Long overdue, I was in at 6.30pm on a Thursday.
To be honest I thought I’d encounter one man and his dog.
Imagine my surprise to find at least 30 people spread across the two bars.
And, what’s more, it was like a real pub – a mixture of friendly, welcoming people who were all happily chatting away.
The flashing fruit machines blinked away to themselves as the TV screens around the bar all remained dark.
In fact, the only hint of sporting action was two temporarily abandoned golf trolleys outside the back door in the rain – clearly the lure of a good pint and better banter was stronger than a wet fairway.
Actually, I fib.
If you wanted sports then there was a hotly contested crib game by the side door.
I chose a pint of Spitfire (4.2%) for £3.30 and my companion selected a ‘fresh and fruity’ Kopparberg (4%) at a slightly pricier £3.60.
I noticed this mighty establishment has achieved a silver Pub of the Year award in the past - true, it was over a decade ago in 1998 but perhaps still worth a mention.
I didn’t have my eating head on so avoided the daily special, but at £7.25 the creamy mushroom stroganoff looked tasty and there was a good selection of pub grub on offer from baguettes to boiled bacon, Pease Pudding and mash.
Now, as we’re all aware it’s mid-summer but the blazing temperatures aren’t exactly searing the baked ground and I glanced wistfully at the double-sided hearth fire thinking how fantastic it must look when it’s roaring away.
And this particular mid-July would be perfect for it.
Venturing into the horizontal rain and beyond the aforementioned golf trolleys, now surrounded by a small clutch of hardened smokers, I surveyed a quite delightful, and expansive, pub garden.
Again, my mind played tricks on me and I imagined what the sun might look like should it ever appear again – even the superbly tended flowers looked waterlogged.
There’s even a substantial structure which looks like it caters for outside events, although the bouncy castle lay forlornly deflated.
Back inside the warm, everyone was still chatting, laughing and generally looking like happy pub folk.
This is obviously a good stopping off point from work and, whether you’re in overalls or suited and booted, everyone seems to mix well.
Judging from the numbers it can attract during the early evening, this is one watering hole which is getting things right.
I made a mental note to return to this particular pub garden as soon as the sun shines – let’s hope it isn’t too long.
Address: The Bull Inn, Main Road, St Paul’s Cray
Decor: *** (some nice beams, looks like a pub)
Drink: *** (good choice)
Price: *** (reasonable)
Atmosphere: **** (excellent for early evening, mid-week)
Staff: *** (helpful and pleasant)