Disease in Dargate kept me out of The Dove a few weeks ago so I thought it only fair to give this secluded Shepherd Neame hostelry a second chance.
This rural pub, nestled away on the charmingly-named Plumpudding Lane, looked a decent find, but there was a sign in the window explaining it was closed as Soph and Will had finally succumbed to Covid.
So, on my return I was pleased to discover the sign long gone and the windows wide open – not so much to keep Covid away as to welcome in any passing breath of air during an unprecedented heatwave.
Despite the scorching temperature, the barmaid, with a wide smile, could not have been more welcoming, so it is clearly possible in this part of the world!
There were folks sitting at dining tables inside and the pub is beautifully decorated and presented from the wide, well-kept, bar to the fireplace with a log burner. But, we’d already spied a good-sized, interesting looking garden behind the car park so headed that way.
However, the searing sunshine was, if anything, even warmer than the welcome so although we first sat out in it we very quickly sought some shade under an impressive looking canopy.
At this stage I’d started with a Bear Island IPA and Mrs SD had gone slightly offline with a Pinot Grigio rose.
I’d eaten earlier in the day but as I didn’t wish for ‘hangriness’ of any kind on the other side of the table, suggested a lite bite of some sort.
Anyway, I already spotted some food coming out from the kitchen and it looked very impressive.
Landlady Sophie was checking everyone in the garden was happy and Mrs SD had already cast an eye over the menu and decided she would be able to manage the goat cheese starter. It was served with tomatoes, beetroot, spiced walnuts and herb oil.
When it arrived the presentation was superb and topped only by the taste of the fantastically blended ingredients. I don’t want to get too carried away, but I obviously got stuck in and having tried everything, I reckon this may well be the best starter I’ve ever tasted.
Sitting there in the shade sampling wonderful food with a very decent pale ale in one hand I started to wonder if this might not be the best Shepherd Neame pub I’ve visited to date.
When our almost licked clean plate was collected, Sophie kindly took a second drinks order and I decided I should check on the quality of Shep’s flagship bitter. I’m pleased to be able to report it was clearly well kept and was well poured with a decent head – a good example of this traditional Kentish ale.
Of course, a second beer led to the inevitable result but I’m pleased to say the pub has developed its traditional outdoor lavatory so drinkers have no need to retrace their steps back into the pub. Fresh and well maintained, and just having a toilet roll holder on the back of the door took me back years.
By the time I returned a second course had already been ordered, I suspect swiftly to ensure no input from me.
Okay, a lemon and gooseberry posset wouldn’t have been my first choice and I didn’t insist on my own spoon, but the taste I had was once again impressive. This time it was Mrs SD who waxed lyrical about both the taste and presentation of this exquisite dessert.
Sophie and chef Will have been at The Dove for four years in August. She says she’s still loving it and ‘the time has absolutely flown by’.
The pub’s old garden marquee blew down in the storms last October and the new canopy/sail was only installed six weeks ago, with the brewery chipping in 50% – actually, now I come to think about, this must be going on elsewhere as I’ve seen similar excellent set-ups at other Shepherd Neame pubs.
There were no dogs in, it was probably too hot, but I did spot a bowl at the back so I guess they must be welcomed on cooler days. It also seems popular with those on two wheels and several cyclists braving the heat of the tarmac chose here as their cooling stop off point.
I’m so glad I took the trouble to revisit the previously Covid-stricken Dove as it is a success story which needs to be sampled.
From the spotless loos to the beautifully maintained flowers and the quite spectacular food you can see the care and attention lavished on this place and the determination to provide all visitors with a special experience.
The Dove, Plumpudding Lane, Dargate, Faversham ME13 9HB
Decor: From the outside this one looks every inch a traditional village pub. Inside it has been tastefully renovated and decorated, but it is the garden area which is really impressive. ****
Drink: Starting with a Bear Island IPA was a good decision for a warm afternoon and, whilst Master Brew wouldn’t be my first choice, I can report the bitter is well kept and served. The Pinot Grigio rose was described as fresh, crisp and flavourful – one she’d definitely select again. ****
Food: Exceptional, my compliments to the chef. We weren’t necessarily planning to eat but boy were we glad we decided to look at the menu. Quite simply the best food I’ve been served in a pub. *****
Price: A pint of Master Brew isn’t too bad at £4.30 a pint, but the IPA was heftier at £5.20. The large wine was £6.30. I know some folk will baulk at a starter costing £8.95 and a pudding for £8.50, but if you taste them you’ll 100% appreciate the value for money. ***
Staff: Refreshingly open and approachable, Sophie was equally welcoming to everyone. Despite being busy and efficient still finds a moment to chat and is incredibly upbeat about the pub and what she and chef Will are achieving here. *****
Catch up on all Secret Drinker’s Kent pub reviews here
Click here to follow Secret Drinker on Twitter
Want more Secret Drinker? Sign up here for his monthly newsletter