Secret Drinker reviews the Kings Head in Horncastle
You can pretty much guess what you’re going to get in a pub by a glance at the building from outside.
If there’s frosted glass on the windows with the pub’s named scrawled across then expect a traditional old oak bar in one room and a cosy lounge area complete with log fire in the other. Maybe even a piano.
A huge A-board advertising Sky Sports by the front door suggests you won’t be getting a comfy seat and a bit of peace to read your book any time soon.
And if there’s thick metal bars across the establishment’s windows then more times than not the wrong joke to the wrong person will leave you wearing your glass as a hat.
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So when I stumbled across the Kings Head in Horncastle’s Bull Ring – with its pretty pink paint job and beautiful thatched roof – I was more-than confident I was in for a quiet afternoon surrounded bearded men in flat caps sneaking their last Scampi Fry to their obedient dogs.
How wrong I was.
This is the point where I should begin detailing exactly what the Kings Head is. But the truth is, I don’t have a clue.
The place appears to have multiple personalities; each one of them very different, each one as quirky as the next. The David Bowie of pubs, if you will.
After grabbing a pint of Batemans XB – and a kindly Coke for my designated driver - we headed to the smaller of the two bar rooms, presumably the dining area, which gave off cosy cafe vibes with functional tables, log burner and Toby jugs hanging from beams.
Pictures of the centuries-old pub – known to locals at The Thatch – hung from the walls and behind the bar was a beautifully bright selection of gins. Built into one wall was what can only be described as a shrine to the brewery, with a collection of Batemans trinkets.
A board on the wall displayed the range of Pieminister pies available with catchy names such as Mock-A-Doodle, Light As A Feta and, of course, Kevin.
With our drinks downed and the action definitely unfolding in the room next door a switch of scenery was called for.
Struggling to get to the bar, where the Sunday afternoon regulars were congregated and ribbing one another, I grabbed a Beavertown Neck Oil and the dessie plumped for a Heineken 0.0%, which led to us both agreeing this is comfortably the least appealing of all alcohol-free lagers flooding the market.
In contrast to the dining area, the main bar is a beautifully laid out series of padded benches and tables, the room flashing from neon green to pink to blue and illuminating the many bar mats stuck to the ceiling.
We wanted action and that’s what we got as entertainer Gemma Louise broke out into a series of jokes aimed at a drinker named Tom, punctuated with a few songs.
Proud Mary, Burning Love, Do You Love Me and Flowers warmed the punters up before a Vengaboys cover with localised lyrics.
“We’re going to SkegVegas... Fantasy Island... We’re gonna ride a donkey... In the mucky North sea...”
It went down well with the punters but I’m not sure it’ll get a booking at Butlins anytime soon.
Watching the inebriated regulars remember not to bang their heads on the low beam became a favoured spectator sport of the afternoon before I decided to check out where they were headed.
Of course, the gents had its own personality, this time more of a traditional pub toilet feel. Clean and cosy and a complete contrast again to the adjoining room which was decorated with bright beer posters at jaunty angles and yet more coasters.
A sign on the wall stated there was a zero drugs policy, which was a good thing considering anyone taking any sort of psychedelic would be overwhelmed by the angles and colours of the space they were reading that warning in.
I left the Thatch with a spring in my step, unsure how to describe the experience, but sure it was an afternoon well spent.
THE KINGS HEAD, BULL RING, HORNCASTLE, LN9 5HU
DECOR: Where to begin? Chintzy, homely, funky, crazy. A bit of everything rolled into one – and somehow it works. 4/5
DRINK: You can never go wrong with XB (3.7%) and this one was as good and rich as any. The Neck Oil was a contrast to the first pint, but a lively 4.3% session IPA more in the spirit of the place. XB 3/5, Neck Oil 4/5
PRICE: The first round was a decent £5.45 and the second a reasonable enough £8.70. Blame the Heineken. 3/5
ATMOSPHERE: Like a football ground, it depends where you plonk yourself. The main bar was a fun, lively place to be, especially when the entertainment started. 4/5
STAFF: The two ladies behind the bar were friendly, smiley and helpful, not bad considering they were rushed off their feet. 4/5