Sunday 22nd October 2013
My first visit to this fascinating micro pub was exactly four weeks after it had opened, as that eventful day was Sunday 22nd September 2013. You couldn't get a better location as it is slap bang in the middle of Whitstable's High Street at the sea end. It is in such a spot that it takes advantage of both the regular trade to the many pubs in the street, and also that of the many visitors to the town. I suppose that is why, unlike a lot of its siblings, it is generally open all day.
The pub is the brainchild of Mike McWilliams and it was a long time in the making as planning permission was not granted until February 2013 yet once you enter you can see that the time was well spent. I have to say that it is a bit different to the other micro pubs in East Kent that have opened since acquiring inspiration from Martyn Hillier's original venture, the first ever: the Butcher's Arms at Herne.
It is a small premises that was last used as a delicatessen called Olivia's. On entering you will find it rather dark as a result of it being on the west side of the street, so the sun will never come in during normal opening hours. The main room is rather small but is furnished in an extremely comfortable style with high tables and long seats along the walls. These are upholstered and the tables have standing room on the opposite sides.
Illumination is provided by a large glass chandelier about half way down the room with wall-mounted lights above the tables. On the left of the room is a wood-burning stove and opposite that on the right, is a large antique mirror. The walls are festooned with a very diverse collection of paintings and prints and in many styles but there seems to be an underlying suggestion of the turn of the century.
I have heard it said that the decor is gothic and possibly there is some element of that, yet there is also a feel of new romanticism, as practiced in the early nineteenth century.
However most of the illustrations are from later, so please treat that as a load of rubbish, should you disagree. The underlying point is that the whole assembly is quite unique and provides a good atmosphere, even before you've had a beer!
Please note that in the photograph on the left and below you see a sculpture of a beast. The more I looked at it, the more I thought it was a Tasmanian Devil, an odd subject. Yet, of course it could have been a completely mythical creature, and that would fit in here!
There is a bar with five hand pump handles, yet the beers are not served from here as they are a static feature used to display the clips of the cask ales on offer. The bar is of beautiful carved wood construction, as also is the bar-back that has windows through to the cool room where the casks can seen on their stillages. The single, unisex toilet is to be found behind this area.
When I visited there were six beers on offer and these were Adnam's (Southwold, Suffolk) Lighthouse (3.4%) and Broadside (4.7%); Dark Star (Partridge Green, West Sussex) Hophead Dark Star (3.8%); Kent Brewery (Birling, Kent) KGB (4.1%), Brewers Reserve (5.0%) and Lumberjack (5.2%).
This a good selection that is ever-changing and, as I have found on subsequent visits this pub is a good place to sample the products of Kent Brewery.
Should you not be a beer aficionado then there were two ciders from Kentish Pip (Bekesbourne, Kent), both flavoured: Ginger Cider and Elderflower Cider (both 5.6%). I must say that this October is not a good month for cider as the new seasons pressings are not yet available. Normally there would be pure cider available here. They were doing white wine (Pino Grigio) by the glass and bottles of Cava were also available.
Apart from the usual bags of Crisps and Pork Scratchings there are Scotch Eggs and Pies from Catherine Glanfield of Canterbury. Cheeses are from the Ashmore range made locally at Dargate, Kent. Bread is provided by a local Whitstable artisanal baker. Incidentally the small food menu is displayed on an antique snooker scoring board, just another of the charms that this watering hole possesses.
This differs in a small subtle way from a most micro pubs as there is music playing. On my visits this has been Jazz or Blues of the more obscure variety and it is very pleasant and not at all intrusive. The self-styled experts will say that this would exclude it as a micro pub because, they'll say, it would inhibit conversation and is against the ethos. However there are no rules in this game and the music perfectly compliments the mood of the pub.
It is a brilliant little pub that is both quirky and eccentric in its presentation. It also serves very good beer and shouldn't be missed if you are in the area.
The Black Dog, 66 High Street, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1BB
Open: Tuesday-Wednesday/Sunday 12.00-23.30; Thursday-Saturday 12.00-24.00. Monday: Closed.
The pub is around 15 minutes walk from Whitstable station which is served by trains
running from London Victoria to Ramsgate via most towns along the North Kent Coast. During the main part of the day they run every half hour from Monday to Saturday and hourly on Sunday.
There are bus stops outside the pub that are used by Buses 4 and 6 that operate a circular route, clockwise and anti-clockwise, from Canterbury to Whitstable, Tankerton, Herne Bay, Herne and then Canterbury.
Apart from the City itself all of the towns listed above have micro pubs with bus stops outside. Through most of the day the frequency is every ten minutes for each route on Monday to Saturday and every fifteen minutes on Sunday. All other bus routes that serve Whitstable come along the crowded High Street.