Tuesday 5th March 2013
This pub has a very familiar name as it is the title of a well-known book by John Buchan. The story has appeared on the silver screen several times, the first by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a convoluted tale that involved counter-espionage, a murder the hero Richard Hannay didn't commit, his time on the run, but the real question throughout is, where or what are the Thirty-Nine steps? I've seen three versions of the film and at the end of them all I had a feeling of anti-climax when the answer is revealed.
The Broadstairs connection began in 1914 when Buchan was recuperating from a stomach ulcer at a villa in nearby North Foreland where there are steps through the cliff to the beach.
His daughter counted that there were 78. During this forced exile he was writing the book that became the Thirty-Nine Steps, which was published in 1915. Buchan thought 78 was too cumbersome a title and halved it.
The old wooden steps were replaced by 105 concrete versions. They are on private land so I'm not sure if they are accessible these days.
The pub of the same name was conceived by Nicola and Kevin Harding who, after visiting many of the existing micro pubs in East Kent, decided they wanted their own. Broadstairs has a very strong connection with Charles Dickens and the town exploits it to the full. Kevin thought it was time to commemorate the town's other literary connection in the name of the pub.
The pub opened on 30th November 2012 in a former pet shop. I entered the pub and whilst I noticed that it had a typical micro pub layout, I thought this is the most symmetrical pub I've ever been in. It has the same number of tables on each side, a central bar with a door either side. Behind this bar is the cool room with a see through wall so that it was possible to see Kevin serving my beer.
There are bench-type seats along each wall with some colourful cushions. The wooden tables are tall and there leather-cushioned seats along the central gangway facing the tables. There are a few framed photographs on the light green walls and there is a reproduction of the poster advertising the 1935 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, before he moved to Hollywood. Above the screen to the cool room is a blackboard with the current beers on offer. The front of the bar is decorated with the pump clips of the beers served previously.
There are normally between three and five beers on sale, depending on demand. On this visit they were: Ramsgate Brewery (Broadstairs) Gadd's No 7 (3.8%), Canterbury Brewers (Foundry pub, Canterbury, Kent) Foundry GB (4.2%), Old Dairy (Rolvenden, Kent) Silver Top (4.5%) and Skinner's (Truro, Cornwall) Ginger Tosser (3.8%). The latter beer is a bitter golden ale infused with honey and a touch of ginger.
There were three ciders and they were all from a local producer, Core Cider of Chartham, Kent. They were Pennypot (5.5%), Hardcore (7.5%) and Strawberry Cider (5.5%) which is made with strawberry juice made from fruit grown on their farm. However, I understand that the pub's ciders now come from Weston's.
They also offer a cheese plate; pork pies, scotch eggs and pickled eggs. Of course, there are the usual packed pub snacks such as crisps, nuts and pork scratchings. They also serve snack pepperamis. One nice touch is that canines are offered a free bowl of water and dog biscuits. There is a range of wines and also soft drinks, tea and coffee.
Unlike most micro pubs they have Folk Music evenings and these are almost continuous during the annual Broadstairs Folk Festival in August. This is a very nice pub indeed and should not be missed if you are visiting the other beery attractions of this town.
The Thirty-Nine Steps, 5 Charlotte Street, Broadstairs, Kent. CT10 1LR
Open: Sunday-Wednesday 12.00-22.00; Thursday to Saturday 12.00-23.00
It is around 10 to 15 minutes away from Broadstairs railway station which is served by two trains an hour from London Victoria via the North Kent Coast; one an hour from London Charing Cross via Ashford and Canterbury; also one an hour from London St Pancras via the High Speed Line, Ashford and Canterbury.
You need to come out of the main station exit, the one on the side where the trains arrive from London Victoria via Margate. Walk down the station approach and then the High Street towards the sea. At the end turn right into Charlotte Street and you'll see the pub on the left.
Probably the most useful bus is the "Loop" which is every 7 to 10 minutes during the week and every 10 minutes on Sundays. This leaves from Queens Road which is a little way up the High Street and is on the left.