The Black Griffin, Canterbury. Curious mythical beast, winged creature of yore, hovering claws and golden of okay I’ll stop. Here is the first in what I hope will be a series of some reviews of places I have visited and did not die in.
I had to meet a friend. I had to meet them for food and to discuss the best way to make people act, on stage, without use of electricity. We normally do this over a large plate of nachos and shame in a pub far away from the city centre.
But I was restless, and had been browsing the internet, looking for something more than tortillas. After looking at several bars and some pictures of worried twigs for a period of time, I chance upon my past, in the form of The Black Griffin.
This pub and I had a history. Not an unpleasant one, not like a rash or a nemesis. Let’s call it a relationship that had run its course. We were both very different back then, at the turn of the century. The Black Griffin was called The Hobgoblin, and it was a black-doused rock pub, populated by metallers, goths, punk and the needy. I spent many a night in this pub with my then metal-obsessed partner. Sad story, really – he loved metal so much that he sadly expired while trying to gather some from a forge in Cornwall…..or he might be a DJ now. I’m not certain.
As time wore on, the Hobgoblin and I realised we wanted different things and we parted ways. Not long after I left, the pub had a serious overhaul and re-emerged as The Black Griffin (it’s original name from many years back), a cleaner, brighter bar for the world to enjoy. The metallers left, and spent many years wondering the streets in an aimless leathery funk, quietly chanting Cradle of Filth lyrics until The Lady Luck opened a few doors down.
Since its facelift, the Griffin has flourished as a solid high street pub, but that’s not to say it hasn’t worked hard to bring a sense of individuality to its innards. Behind the bar, the ales are pleasingly above average, the largers are perfectly serviceable, and many, many spirits, shot and mixers tempt those can be turned. Hot spiced cider is available on these wintery nights, as are alcoholic slushies for hot days or for the child in you. Away from the bar, remnants of the pub’s history languish alongside the staff’s quirky decorations. Dripping candles light up deals on Peroni, shabby chic hearts dangle above pumps of the thickest bitter, collages of black and white photos adorn a wall…..it’s just a wall, sorry I ran out of comparrisons. It is quirky, with an olde world charm. Much like a Griffin itself!
I mean if you met a griffin now, it would be terrifying. But you’d have to acknowledge its ancient appeal.
I prepared in advance – I dispatched a trained ferret to enquire about food service times and to ascertain if any of my enemies would be there. I heard nothing back. I’m starting to doubt the value of using ferrets to do my dirty work.
Therefore, I took to their Facebook page to make my enquiries. The BG team responded almost instantly, and with a cheery e-disposition and many helpful tips for my visit. So unlike the usual answer I get from businesses on Facebook, along the lines of “please stop messaging us, we don’t know where the dead meet”. I was impressed. So to the BG I went. On arrival, I found a table already reserved and the bar staff offering drinks and giving no indication that they might try to burn me. Most welcome!
It was Thursday and having spent much of the day investigating swans, I was in the mood for meat. I ordered a steak, while my companion ordered sausage and mash.
An excellent meal was had. My rare steak was succulent, generous and cooked to perfection, certainly the best I’ve been served in some time. The unctuous peppercorn sauce had plenty of spice, and the hand-cut chips were gloriously golden and fluffy. My friend’s sausage and mash went down an equal storm – hearty sausages and creamy mash, bathed in flavourful gravy. It’s worth mentioning that having built up a slight sensitivity to flour (due to doing Atkins so many times that it got sad), I can tell when kitchens pad out their dishes with flours and processed thickeners – none such trickery here.
Portion sizes were also spot on, and I felt perfectly sated at the end of my meal (Sated in terms of my hunger. Not in terms of my need to find the 13th Marquis of Cuttleworld. I shall never rest…).
While my cohort stuck to shandies, I had a choice of Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec and Pinot Noir by the glass (I was foolish enough not to ask where each wine came from, sorry). The Pinot Noir was adequate for the meal but was quite sharp, so I switched to the Shiraz for my second glass and found this far more quaffable, if a touch jammy. I did not ask about their white wines on this occasion; I was eating steak, not a ballet.
My friend had only one sadness; an apparent lack of dessert on the menu. We may have been mistaken, however, and we did not ask the staff about any such thing, so it’s not really much of a complaint. It’s a terrible one, in fact. Ignore it.
The bill for two mains, two large glasses of red and two larger shandies came to just under £33 – perfectly reasonable in my book.
As we left, the pub’s regular open mic night had just got underway, and was drawing quite the crowd. It was a lovely sight, but I could not stay for long to watch; I had an early meeting at work, plus the moon was growing full and it is bad luck to be out and about without an elk’s head when the moon is fat.
All in all, I must report a very pleasant evening. I will confess that I would not have previously thought of the Black Griffin as a place to dine. It has always been a drinking den to me, one I frequent infrequently. But that, I suspect, is going to change. I hope you will follow suit.
The Black Griffin, 40 St Peter’s Street, Canterbury CT1 2BG.
Open Mon to Thus 11am to 11.30pm, Fri & Sat 11am to 12.30am, Sun 11am to 11pm. Food served to 9pm most evenings. Real open fire, courtyard beer garden and tables on the street. Live Music Mondays, Open Mic Night (Thurs).
Do it: Excellent all round pub– great for food or for just drinking unstoppably of an evening.
Don’t: If you need the full on gastro-pub vibe (and the inflated prices to match…)