The Shakespeare in Canterbury reviewed
PUBLISHED: 15:54 21 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:54 21 February 2014
A pub, wine bar and coffee house - all this and fab cathedral views, too
Name your pub The Shakespeare and I’m going to be there like a shot.
Give it a complete makeover then add the cutest wine bar ever, just through the courtyard behind this former Irish boozer, and you’ve got me hooked.
And for a final flourish, your outlook is onto magnificent Canterbury Cathedral. No wonder that the prime-view window slot on New Year’s Eve was rented out by the hour for the price of a bottle of Champagne.
This is Shepherd Neame at its best, taking a very unprepossessing site but in a wonderful location and bringing it bang up to date. You enter the pub, where three of us enjoyed lunch, from Butchery Lane just opposite the Canterbury Roman Museum.
Opened last August, after a complete renovation updated everything from the scrubbed wooden floors to panelled walls, the menus and logos, it is immediately welcoming – especially to women, who didn’t tend to be regulars at the old place…
Lovely touches abound: old brewery kegs as tables and stools, a big blackboard map of Kent showing local producers, a colour palette of creams and greens – and even discreet chunky wooden highchairs.
The daily changing menus are definitely more Jamie Oliver than traditional pub grub (‘posh fish fingers’, steak and Spitfire ale pie, sticky toffee pudding), and have, thankfully, avoided too many Shakespeare puns. Though I must admit admiring ‘Shylock’s pound’ – a very apt description for the double beef steak burger with pulled pork, smoked Cheddar and bacon we watched one brave diner tackle.
I had the far daintier ‘classic beef’ version, not a typical choice for me but it came in a toasted brioche bun, had the tastiest coleslaw and chips on the side and was served on wooden board. I loved it.
My dining chums both went for gourmet open sandwiches: chestnut mushrooms in a creamy sauce on toasted tiger bread, and pan-seared King prawns with an endive and avocado salad on toasted granary. The latter was chosen by my Swedish photographer, who knows a thing or two about open sandwiches: this passed the test with ease.
But that’s not all; make your way across a cobbled courtyard out of the pub and into the darkly cosy sister Wine & Coffee House, formerly an empty shop, where you are just as welcome to pop in for coffee and cake as a glass of vino. When I’m next here I’ll settle in with some ‘nibbles’ (cured meats and local cheeses, rustic breads, salt and vinegar chicken wings) and a ‘wine flight.’ I’d indulged in one of these at at lunch and it’s such a good idea: three 50ml sample-size wines by the glass, for just £5.
At night the bar’s chameleon character alters again, the music changes and there’s a different clientele enjoying cocktails as well as fine wines from an excellent list.
And opening soon in the cellars will be a private dining area: watch this space. n