Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Canterbury Pig Tales

After spending three entertaining and educational (although not especially productive) years in this little corner of Kent, I relish coming back to dear Canters. Especially as now it's without the gnawing fear of missing yet another essay deadline and I don't have to subsist on a diet of 'Spoons beer and a burger - if you think it's cheap now it was a bargainous £2.99 back in the day - and discount buckets of Cherry Veba (RIP, the ultimate alcopop).

With the lack of finances during that time, it's probably a good thing that The Foundry Brewpub was a dim and distant dream. It also shows how far British brewing has come. A decade ago (ok, fifteen years...) Britain's oldest brewers, Faversham's Shepherd Neame, reigned supreme on this patch. Now you can sup Canterbury Lager, Stout and Wheat beers, amongst many others including a brew made with New Zealand hops and a chilli and chocolate Aztec stout, all brewed within the city limits.

The aforementioned lager and nitro stout we tried were good, although the service, while friendly, was pretty confused when we tried to order. A shame, as I was tempted to go back and grab a few bottles of the Foundry Red Rye for takeout, but didn't have the strength to navigate the assorted melee by the bar trying to pay for their lunch.

To be fair most of my waning enthusiasm for the usual English passion for standing in line was because I needed some lunch myself. While a homemade pie platter, a ploughmans or a plate of honey beer braised ribs - as can all to be found on the Foundry's menu - sounded tempting, I knew where we were heading next; to Sun Street, tucked away by the cathedral, home of Pork and Co.

This little takeaway sandwich shop, with a few stools in the window if you want to eat in, is a veritable shrine to the swine. Something that's attested before you even step inside with the trough of shredded pork, complete with head, displayed proudly in the window. 

As well as their signature 14 hour pulled pork in brioche buns, they also offer scotch eggs, sausage rolls, macaroni cheese and salt beef in homemade seeded bagels. Pretty much all the major food groups covered and fibre's overrated anyway (if you're not a salad dodger you can get your choice of porky goodness in a box with greens instead of with bread, but why not live fast and die with diabetes and an impacted colon).

They say a picture tells a thousand words and there's not much more I can add to this one. It was as great as it looked; probably better. If large brewery conglomerates made sandwiches it wouldn't be as good as this one.

Each bun comes with the choice of one sauce and a topping (although you can pimp your roll with extras until its structural integrity collapses). The very chipper guy serving us recommended the apple butter and the chilli slaw, so the Ewing picked the former and I the latter. I also chose the apple sauce and finished it all off with crackling, because who wouldn't finish it with crackling. The Ewing's was adorned with black pud alongside the apple butter (not dairy related but a kind of concentrated fruit spread, and a cinch to make yourself - TE) and more crispy pig skin.

Afterwards a brisk constitutional around the city was in order before I made my first visit - to my eternal shame as I walked past it most days for a year - to St Dunstans church. As well as meeting a charming gentleman - who told us he came here every time he was in Canterbury for solace and a sense of wellbeing - and an Eastern European lady who appeared and began playing a captivating unplanned recital at the piano, it is also the final resting place of Thomas More's head.

Afterwards we walked down to the Westgate gardens - via my old house where I reminisced about the days when my housemate Becky got stuck on the flat roof and had to be rescued by the neighbours, drunken space hopper races down the road (I bet the neighbours wish they hadn't been so helpful) and the delights of ice forming inside the windows and chilblains in winter. 

The gardens are lovely; you can walk along the river Stour, take a punt on a punt and, at this time of year, see the Garden of England in full bloom. It's worth a trip just to see the striking oriental plane tree, purportedly over two hundred years old, with its fascinatingly gnarly and bulbous trunk.

Under the shade of the very same tree we stopped to enjoy an impromptu teatime snack, scarfing down a Plump Pilgrim, the south's shameless rip off of Yorkshire stalwart Betty's, Fat Rascal. This, dare I say it and despite its lack of almond teeth and only having one cherry eye, was even better.

Final stop of the day was at the original Bottle Shop - whose bigger brother can be found at the end of the Bermonsdsey Beer Mile - a bijou treasure trove of ales housed in the Goods Shed by Canterbury West station. Whilst local brews are not their forte (we picked up some Mikkller cans and a couple of Tempest and Cloudwater bottles), they did have the Spratwaffler Pale Ale, from Deal, as their beer of the week. A decent recommendation for some light, low ABV drinking that, alongside a bag of Pork and Co's homemade scratchings, made me happy as a pig in the proverbial.

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