Business, Food & Drink Dec 15 2020
Ship Centurion – Ship Shape at the Ship

By Whitstable


The Ship Centurion- this Whitstable stalwart has been keeping pub goers happy for centuries


Since the 1970s the Ship has been offering its loyal customers fine ales and hearty food. It is hard to miss thanks to its vibrant displays of lilac and rose begonias and petunias draping its entrance.


‘I am a keen gardener,’ says owner Roland Birks and inside a homely touch is reflected in the music nights and warm welcome from the host and staff.


The pub’s marine connotations has led to confusion over the name. Roland admits no one is quite sure if it started life as The Ship or Ship Centurion. What is not debated is that pubs have always attracted sailors with many former naval types opening pubs when they come back to shore. But pubs are not just for sailors.

The Ship Centurion Whitstable


A fresh spirit at the Ship Centurion

If there’s one thing that many of us have missed during the 2020 pandemic that’s a night down the pub. But you’d have to be a tough sort to run one as a business these days, wouldn’t you? Even before Covid 19, pubs in the country were closing down at an alarming rate.


Roland is not so sure. He says: ‘We are lucky. We have lots of travellers that come down to Whitstable…we are an independent business.’


True, it is an unique watering hole but there is a lot of competition in the town. In fact, in the late 1880s there was one pub for every week of the year in Whitstable. Things aren’t quite that competitive now but it’s not going to be easy is it?


German menu

Roland adds: ‘But really, any business…if they are run well is always going to have some kind of business be it for locals and non-locals alike.’


The Ship’s site has hosted an inn here on the since the reign of George II in 1750 and up until the 1990s, Roland’s German father ran it. Roland’s father came from near Munich and there are many nods to his father’s home country with a menu that encompasses pretzel and schnitzel. Standing out from the crowd in the pub market is not easy but something a bit different from pulled pork certainly helps. So where does Roland source these ingredients?


Locally sourced ales

He says:



“ A couple of times a year I drive to Germany to stock up on the all the juicy bratwurst and other specials. . .]



These specials have won this pub a distinct image in a sea of chain pubs and marks them out as the wholly independent operation they are. What about the drinks? Are they in keeping with the unique spirit of The Ship?


‘We stock Canterbury ale, Goachers beer (from Maidstone), Gadds (from Ramsgate) and from Time & Tide in Deal… we are just ordering in our mulled wine now.’


And Roland’s thoughts on our town? ‘Mum’s an oyster…it’s a lovely beach and lovely people.’ Prost

The Ship Centurion Pub in Whitstable


Written by Nicolette Loizou. 111 Places in Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay by the same author is due to be published by Emons in March 2021



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