The Chaser Inn
Looking for a charming family-friendly pub, a beer garden to soak up the sun and a wondersome walk? Look no further, than The Chaser Inn, Shipbourne.
The Chaser Inn was the original flagship venture for pub group Whiting and Hammond and opened in the summer of 2003 following a big refurbishment. The pub became an instant hit – attracting regulars from near and far – particularly because of its stunning location.
You’ll find The Chaser Inn just outside in the cluster of houses that make up the tiny village of Shipbourne – equidistant between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, so situated smack bang in the middle in that well-heeled pocket of west Kent.
Over-looking the green-cum-common with lots of rural lanes to explore in the immediate area, this pub is particularly popular with walkers and cyclists thanks to its perfect countryside location.
You’ve got to drive to get here (park in the car park at the back of the pub or in the lane on the common opposite) so this is a destination pub, rather than one that locals can walk to. But it does attract lots of loyal regulars who make up around half of the pub’s customers. The other half of its client base tends to be new visitors looking for a decent day-tripper venue. This is no doubt why they recently won the Silver in the Beautiful South Tourism Award for Tourism Pub of the Year.
I visited with Mr Muddy and my daughter on a wonderful sunny day so sat in the pretty side garden, bordered with hedges and shrubs and overlooked by the church.
Inside there’s traditional stripped wooden floors, pictures, maps and old photos lining the walls and – in the winter – several log fires. There’s lots of different pockets of space – different zones catering for different needs or moods. Like the Courtyard Room with its retractable roof, so great in summer but also still cosy in winter months. Or enjoy a Sunday lunch in the popular Church Room – an oak beamed dining area, complete with roaring fire.
Children are well catered for, and should you have a pooch in tow, there’s not only the beer garden but also a dog-friendly section by the bar – so all bases covered.
Fact fans sidenote: The pub takes its name from the local Fairlawn Estate where the Queen Mother’s steeple-chase horses were trained. Sitting next door to the beautiful church of St. Giles and opposite a large grassy common with spectacular views, it dates back to 1880 when it was built by the Cazalet family.
In fact, Major Peter Cazalet trained the Queen Mother’s horses personally; upon her arrival to visit them, the jockeys would wait in the Chaser’s now affectionately named ‘Jockey Room’ to meet her.
SCOFF & QUAFF
There’s a lot on the menu, which is the case with all the Whiting and Hammond pubs, perhaps some might say an overwhelming amount of choice. However I know the reason for this is that this pub likes to keep everyone happy. So they probably don’t dare drop a dish or two.
I opted for the Beer Battered Cod & Chips, from the ‘Pub Classics’ section of the menu. My daughter went for the same but the slightly smaller portion from the Children’s Menu. Mr Muddy chose the Pan Cooked Smoked Haddock served on new potato, samphire, broad beans and fine green beans, which comes under ‘Chaser Specials’. There’s also Light Bites, Sandwiches and a decent selection of Vegetarian & Vegan dishes.
Mr Muddy very much enjoyed his haddock. My fish was absolutely delish and the homemade tartar sauce just perfect. If I was going to be picky my only criticism would be that while the chunky chips were not too bad at all they were not triple cooked as described which means light and fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside.
On Fridays the pub offers a popular Surf & Turf Special which consists of a half a Grilled Lobster and a 28 day aged Scottish Angus Cross rump steak, served with skinny chips for £19.95
AROUND AND ABOUT
The big draw here is the location and lovely circular walks in the area, like this one that takes you via Shipbourne common and the church, so it would be rude not to pop into the pub on the way.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Sunday lunchers, families, casual bar drinkers, dog-walkers. Perfect for summer out-door-dining or cosy winter-warming – all bases are covered here.
Not for: Spur-of-the-moment Sunday lunch. You can drop in for a pint, a packet of peanuts and the paper, but it gets busy at the weekends so if you’re planning to eat and there are a few of you, book ahead.
££: Starters and Sandwiches mostly in the £7 – £9 range. Mains start at £11.95 for The Chaser Steak Burger or £12.95 for the Small Cod & Chips (adult size). Rising to £15.95 for Mr Muddy’s Smoked Haddock or £19.95 for the Herb & Mustard Rack of Lamb. Kids’ mains are a £6.95/£7.50.
The Chaser Inn, Stumble Hill, Shipbourne, Tonbridge, Kent, TN11 9PE, Tel: 01732 810360, thechaser.co.uk
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