Sheltering in the lee of a hillock in the leafy, utmost outskirts of south-east London, the Rambler’s Rest consists of a clapboard cottage from the 1680s with, a few steps down, a one-storey extension.
Locals roost in the wood-panelled nook that constituted the entire pub when it was known as the Miller’s Arms (the current name may stem from the hiking craze of the Thirties); visitors are better off in the larger downhill extension.
“It’s like two different pubs on a weekend night,” said the barmaid Paige, as she pulled me a pint of Rambler’s Special Ale (4.1%, with a hit from five different malts). “The top door can be horrible to get out of. Use the bottom door if it’s packed.”
On a sunny Friday lunchtime, the downstairs bar was patronised by a sprinkling of diners mainly tucking into steak and Rambler’s Ale pie with chips (£11.95). The only occupants of the top bar were a pair of visitors shouting down a mobile to a lost friend.
“Tell him to drive down a rough track.” He sounds furious. “Where is he precisely?” He doesn’t know. Satnav is no good here. “Pillock.”
This is the best-kept secret in Chislehurst – as long as you can find it
Keith Laroche, landlord
Slightly flummoxed by the Rambler’s long menu, we plumped for cheesy chips with bacon (£3.50) and nachos (£4.95) from the snack selection. “It’s not a very balanced meal,” complained my wife. “How about honey and mustard sausages [£4.95]?” suggested Paige. “They’re lovely.”
Our generously portioned lunch went down very well, especially the chopped sausages in their sticky marinade. “Excellent!” said my wife as she harpooned the last juicy cylinder. United at last, our dining companions waxed philosophical (“Truth is a slippery concept – you should always delight in nuance”) before turning to the menu. I urged them in the direction of the sausages. “Fine by me,” said one. “I’m a vegetarian – but not in the pub.”
The landlord Keith Laroche told us that the place is packed for Sunday lunch (£9.95). “This is the best-kept secret in Chislehurst – as long as you can find it.” We ran into a knapsacked trio on the way back to the station. They were peering at a map.
The Rambler's Rest, Mill Place, Old Hill, Chislehurst BR7 5ND; 020 8467 1734