Secret Drinker revisits the Royal Hotel, Sheerness

They say never go back, never go back to the scene – but they also say never say never.

So at the Royal Hotel, which I visited for the first time in December 2019, I sat in the exact same seat. (If you want to see the review – it’s right here)

The Royal Hotel in Sheerness has received a complete makeover inside and out.  There's still a lot to do behind the scenes, but so far it's a big improvementThe Royal Hotel in Sheerness has received a complete makeover inside and out. There’s still a lot to do behind the scenes, but so far it’s a big improvement

The last time I was in the bar, the barmaid recommended that Wetherspoon serve a better pint around the corner, but this Sheerness boozer is now under new management.

This time it was table service only and our tiny barmaid was quickly by our side to explain it was cash only and to ask what would we like?

The full drinks menu is laminated to a number of cards at your table and we started with a pint of Moretti and a Whitstable Bay for only £ 5.45 a couple.

Just like last week’s pub – the Jolly Caulkers in Chatham – there were coasters on the table, the barmaid playing the tunes from the jukebox, and there was a lot of hi-vis clothing.

The bar has received a complete makeover.  A sign saying “Come in as a stranger, leave as friends” has been retained and no longer feels out of placeThe bar has received a complete makeover. A sign saying “Come in as a stranger, leave as friends” has been retained and no longer feels out of place

Unlike last week’s pub, a traditional pub that hasn’t changed in decades, this is a changing pub. And as with all things in transition, there is inevitably an element of confusion – in this case the transition takes place behind a sheet draped behind the counter, but more on that later.

First, let’s clear one thing up. I have nothing against the hardworking people who have to wear protective clothing when they work or the fact that they rightly deserve to stop by for a beer after they put on a shift and keep their orange shirt or pants on. But why were three people, two of whom were women, still wearing safety vests on a hot evening?

The bar has been completely redesigned inside and out since my last visit and definitely improved with its bright blue upholstery.

There is a lot of building material piling up behind the bar and there is still a lot to do before the hotel rooms can be reopenedThere is a lot of building material piling up behind the bar and there is still a lot to do before the hotel rooms can be reopenedThe only food available was chips but given the quality of the food served here is this another big step in the right direction?The only food available was chips but given the quality of the food served here is this another big step in the right direction?

In fact, the new owner was sitting in the bar holding business meetings while the SD apprentice and I were inside. Our barmaid Rae said she had shown herself at her best all day and was proud of the fact that she hadn’t missed a single swear phrase.

With the renovations, the atmosphere at the Royal Hotel has improved significantly and the fact that food is no longer served is another big step in the right direction – instead of the inedible sandwich we were previously served with, the apprentice and I with each a pack of chips satisfied.

The gentlemen are still on the right, just past the bar, with a sign indicating they are behind the sheet, but watch out for the step.

The men's toilets are very plain and simple, but clean and smelling fresh - again a big improvement over my last visitThe men’s toilets are very plain and simple, but clean and smelling fresh – again a big improvement over my last visitThe tile work is progressing, but the ladies' room is far from finished.  In the meantime, they must use the disabled toiletThe tile work is progressing, but the ladies’ room is far from finished. In the meantime, they must use the disabled toilet

The last time there were holes punched in the plastic walls, this time the plastic walls were intact and although there is still much to be done, they were clean and fresh. The transitional women have had a good run of things, but of course there is still a lot to do here too. Elsewhere there is plenty of evidence that the builders are still there.

When I got back to the bar, the apprentice informed me that I had missed all the fuss when a school girl ran through the open door to steal one of the free masks.

The pub may still be in the process of being converted, but I’m happy to report a significant improvement on my last visit.

Much to the horror and embarrassment of the SD apprentice, I had a moment of madness and at some point decided to try a Strongbow Dark Fruit sampleMuch to the horror and embarrassment of the SD apprentice, I had a moment of madness and at some point decided to try a Strongbow Dark Fruit sample

Okay, the ladies room isn’t open yet, the smoke is blowing in through the open door and the owner is nibbling in the handicapped room instead of walking behind the sheets with his regulars, but the Royal Hotel has come by leaps and bounds.

Finally, the chatty local Nathan known as Nev deserves special mention, who was like a breath of fresh air and helped remind the apprentice and me what we really missed about pubs during the lockdown – the chance to see a few too meet and share and words with interesting people.

And this thoroughly decent gentleman bought both of us a drink. Yes, this royal revisit was definitely a good idea.

Free masks are available for those who forgot to bring their own.  While I was with the gentlemen, the apprentice SD estimates that a young girl ran into the pub and stole oneFree masks are available for those who forgot to bring their own. While I was with the gentlemen, the apprentice SD estimates that a young girl ran into the pub and stole one

The Royal Hotel, Broadway 21, Sheerness ME12 1AB

Decor: It’s in transition and the construction workers are still on site, but many of the worst horrors have been removed and the bar has been upgraded beyond recognition. ***

Drinking: There used to be no beer at all, so Master Brew is at least a step in the right direction. The lager and the Guinness were both ok – I’m not sure I would visit the Dark Fruit again. **

Price: A pint of Whitstable Bay was only £ 2.25 – oddly enough, it’s even cheaper if you buy two halves! Guinness costs € 3.10. *****

Staff: Compared to our previous hostess, the barmaid Rae was efficient and friendly, definitely a big improvement on our last visit. ****

All beverage prices are clearly displayed on laminated price lists available on each tableAll beverage prices are clearly displayed on laminated price lists available on each table

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