Friday 6th April 2012
This small pub is a shrine to the produce of the county of Kent. With just a couple of exceptions, all the food and drink available here comes from the county. We might as well begin with the two exceptions. Some of the wine comes from France, yet only from small producers. It is definitely not supermarket wine. Also, the limited selection of spirits comes from small distillers from around the country. Again, there are no big names represented and that includes the malt whiskies.
The pub was opened in May 2010 by Julian Newick. It has been called a micro pub but it isn't really, although I can think of at least one micro pub that has much more drinking space than the Lifeboat. I don't want to get involved with the self-appointed micro pub police force at this juncture as they are creepy. Actually it differs in one or two other aspects also, so I guess the sign outside describes it best: Ale & Cider House.
Please allow me to give you a small guided tour. Entry is through the corner door into what I think is the best part of the pub. There is a bench seat in the window on the left and an upturned wooden barrel serving as a table with a few chairs. On the right is a wall that is dedicated to the Margate Lifeboat with many photographs of craft and personnel. In front of this is another barrel table, or are there two, I forget?
On the left is a small "bar", more of a counter I guess. Maybe it was a feature in a former life of the pub? On it is an ancient cash register which, at first you think is just an artefact but then you realise that it is still in use as the bar person rings up your order. Behind this are the extensive lists of beer, cider and virtually everything else offered in the pub, chalked up on blackboards.
On the right you then walk past the wooden stillage with all of the firkins of beer racked up in their insulation jackets and the coils of the cooling system snaking in and out of them. Glance to the left and see the "Wall of Cider". The Lifeboat is noted for its commitment to Kentish cider and this was rewarded when it was awarded CAMRA Kent Cider Pub of the Year twice in succession.
Beyond this point you will find yourself in the largest part of the pub with four big tables and a roaring wood fire in the winter months. The pub was said to have been a jewellery shop and also one that sold school uniforms. Maybe one function followed the other. Before Julian took it on it was Newby's Wine Bar. I bet that didn't have sawdust on the floor as it does today!
On the occasion of this visit the number of beers and ciders on offer were very considerable. This because the Planet Thanet Beer and Cider was on at the Winter Gardens and it was anticipated that there would be a big demand in the pub over the weekend. These are listed below along with the wines, all are produced in Kent. Normally there are three to four beers and up to ten ciders and perries.
The choice of beers were: Old Dairy (Rolvenden) Wild Hop (4.0%) and Czech Mate (5.0%); Hopdaemon (Newnham) Golden Braid (3.7%) and Skrimshander IPA (4.5%); Goacher's (Maidstone) Best Dark Ale (4.1%) and Imperial Stout (4.5%); Kent Brewery (Birling) Beyond the Pale (5.4%); Royal Tunbridge Wells (Tunbridge Wells) Dipper (3.7%) and finally Westerham Brewery (Edenbridge) Audit Ale (6.2%).
The extensive list of ciders from the "wall" included the following: North Downs (Faversham) Dry (7.0%); Broomfield Farm (Broomfield) Medium (7.0%); Biddenden (Biddenden) Medium (8.0%); Double Vision (Boughton Monchelsea) Medium (7.4%), Triple Vision (10%!) and Strawberry Cider (7.4%); Dudda's Tun (Doddington) Medium (7.5%); Kentish Pip (Bekesbourne) Medium Dry (5.5%); Merry Moon (Mersham) Lunatickle (6.8%) and Lemon Moon (6.4%); Kingswood (Barham) Dry (6.5%) and East Stour (Mersham) Medium (6.8%).
There were also these perries: Dudda's Tun (Doddington), Double Vision (Boughton Monchelsea) Impaired Vision (7.4%) and from Merry Moon (Mersham) there was Scary Peary (6.0%). There were also wines of many varieties from three local vineyards: Barnsole of Ash, Terlingham of Hawkinge and Elham Valley of Elham.
As alluded to before, this pub serves a good range of food grown, caught or made in the county. From the sea there is crab, lobster, mackerel and seafood from Ramsgate. There are many varieties of meat pies from Biddenden and sausages from Ramsgate. They say that they serve every kind of Kentish cheese and they're probably right. The desserts and puddings are from Paddock Wood and naturally there are vegetarian options.
There is also a lot more going on in this pub in addition to the eating and drinking. Tuesday night (20.00) is open mic night. Every Wednesday evening (20.00) there is a quiz.
There's a band or singer appearing every Thursday night (20.00). On the first Monday of each month at 19.30 they host a Poetry & Song evening. Finally every Sunday afternoon at 16.00 there is Jazz.
The Lifeboat is a fantastic little pub and is a "must visit" if you are in the town. As a showcase for the beer, cider and food of Kent it cannot be beaten.
The Lifeboat, 1 Market Street, Margate, CT9 1EU. Tel: 01843 447118
Open: Monday-Sunday 12.00 to late.
Late is defined as possibly 24.00, but never before 22.00
If coming from the railway station it takes between 15 to 20 minutes to walk to this pub. There are two trains per hour on Mondays to Saturdays from London Victoria via the Medway towns and Faversham, one an hour on Sunday. These trains continue to Ramsgate.
Also there is one Hi-Speed train per hour from London St Pancras via Ashford, Canterbury West and Ramsgate.
Margate is well served by buses from throughout the Thanet area and also Canterbury.