Pub 19. Kings Head, Smallthorne. 04/04/18
In attendance – DJT, Po, Pete Cotton, Bram
We’ve been relatively lucky with the pubs drawn out so far, in as much as there haven’t been any that I’d class as being particularly “rough”. In fact, I was wondering when we’d encounter a pub with a bit of an edge to it; one where it’s a case of having to drink a pint in double quick time and hot-step it out of the pub before it becomes a bit “fighty”. I actually lived in Smallthorne for a short time in the late 90’s, when I was a fresh faced 19 year old. I never really had the inclination to visit any of the pubs in the local vicinity for one reason or another. To be fair, the pubs in the area do have a bit of a reputation. Then again, we had a pint in The Commercial without incident, even the Auctioneer wasn’t particularly scary so feeling somewhat confident we made our way to The Kings Head in Smallthorne for a couple of beers.
From the outside, the pub looks fairly similar to The Terrace that we visited earlier in the year. It sits about halfway up the main road known as “Smallthorne Bank”, and has a side road in which to park. The entrance is on the main street, and as you enter you have the choice of lounge to the right or bar to the left. As always, we went into the bar which looks, as does the rest of the pub, like it has been recently done up. The room isn’t overly large but there is enough room, with comfortable leather style benches, chairs and stools, and there were 3 large flat screen TVs which were showing football. There is an L shaped bar, a dartboard although no pool table and a sign that says you can’t smoke or vape inside. We didn’t enter the lounge, but it seems to be a slightly plusher area, and has it’s own bar, however most of the customers were in the bar.
Beer choice was average, with Doom Bar, Abbot ale, Boddingtons and Guinness if you don’t drink lager. If you do, you can choose from San Miguel, Carling and once again Coors Light makes an appearance. Otherwise, normal Strongbow and the Dark Fruits variety are available should that be your bag. Service was fine, if a bit slow but this was because the landlord was chatting with locals at the bar. Overall, the vibe of the place wasn’t too bad, which is not what I was expecting but it was friendly enough and the punters didn’t seem too perturbed at four random blokes entering their pub. However, I would say that it’s definitely a “local’s pub” and you might encounter a different atmosphere at the weekend as an outsider. I opted for a pint of Doom Bar, which retailed at £2.60. Being reasonably priced, it was actually a pretty good pint of beer.
Earlier in the day, I was told that the average age of the pub was about 80. It was, therefore, another surprise to find that there was predominantly a younger crowd, although there were a couple of old timers bringing the average age up. The pub itself was pretty lively for a Wednesday night, but that might have something to do with the football being on. There was also a random dog wandering around at one point which is always an enjoyable feature. The Pork Scratchings were by “Raygray”, and retailed at £1.30. Although this is above the standard, I can honestly say that they were amongst the best bits of swine I’ve eaten and had a generous serving of tasty pig bits. I didn’t see any suggestion that the pub serves food.
To get to the toilets and smoking area, you go through a door at the end of the bar. This is where things get a bit more interesting. The smoking area is actually one of the best that I’ve been in. There is a decking area, artificial grass, a couple of heaters and some decent wooden benches, with additional metal seats and tables. We did actually spend a bit of time here (as you can’t vape inside), and overall it’s pretty impressive, in summer you could almost forget that you were in Stoke! Behind this area, there is what appears to be a small function slash darts room, with 2 additional dartboards. However, this was not in use on our visit. Between these are the toilets with a fruit machine outside for good measure. The gents had 4 urinals, 1 cubicle, 1 sink, and features some nice black and white tiles on the floor, and slate effect on the walls. The Robus hand dryer wasn’t particularly great, but overall the toilet was clean, smelt good and wasn’t a bad place to spend a penny. Once again, as we had no female attendees, I cannot verify the quality of the ladies facilities.
Overall then, a bit of a surprise this week and proof that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover. The Kings Head is definitely a decent pub, the beer is good and reasonably priced and it sells some of the best pork scratchings I’ve had recently. The atmosphere was pretty lively for a week night and the outside area is cracking. Another pub that I’d probably go to again, if I was in the area and had a thirst on.
Beer choice/range – 3/5
Ambience – 3.5/5
Facilities – 3/5
Location – 2.5/5
Pork scratchings – 4.5/5
Fruli – 0/1
Toilets – 4/5
Other – 1/5
Overall – 24.5/41
Random Attendee Comments –
“Seriously though, good smoking area, smart toilets etc, big screens on….still no amazing ale choice though and let down on no card machine” – Bram
“Even a non-smoker like myself can’t fail to be impressed by a smoking area that could double up as a 5-a-side stadium. The swine also made an overdue appearance after many dry weeks” – Po