Is this the smallest cafe in the county?

This week, I thought I’d pay a visit to what might be the smallest cafe in the county to see if size really matters.

The Little Old Toll House, tucked away on Allington Lock in Maidstone, is a small but mighty waterside spot that, despite its miniature size, still manages to grab your attention as you stroll along the river.

Allington Lock was the perfect place to visit on a bright and sunny Saturday morning. Photo: Sam Lawrie

I don’t know if it’s the lounge chairs dotting the grass or the splatter of slate menus covering the facade of the building.

We arrived around 10:30 on a very sunny Saturday and almost all the chairs and tables were taken. It quickly became clear that this is a popular spot among locals who are familiar with the lock.

The Little Old Toll House is a small cafe located on the waterfront.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
The Little Old Toll House is a small cafe located on the waterfront. Photo: Sam Lawrie

We managed to grab the only free table, which was tucked under a large willow tree and, after what you might call a ‘heavy’ Friday night, provided some very welcome shade from the sun.

We perused the many menus, which included a long list of drinks such as hot and iced coffees, milkshakes, fresh juices; a menu of cakes with flavors ranging from a slice of raspberry to a carrot cake; and savory snacks, including sausage rolls, cheese twists, and vegetable patties.

For such a small place, the menu was large and varied.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
For such a small place, the menu was large and varied. Photo: Sam Lawrie

It was a shame not to see sandwiches or toast on the menu, as I was really craving something along those lines, but maybe it was more of a lunchtime offering.

Instead we opted for a few vegan sausage rolls, which were just under £3 each, a blueberry muffin and a gluten-free vegan flapjack. We also selected the fresh orange juice, which I thought was heavenly, and a latte to complete our breakfast.

Service was quick and pleasant, and within a minute we had armfuls of pastries and hot cakes to take back to our table.

Vegan sausage rolls are all the rage these days, and this one was pretty tasty.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
Vegan sausage rolls are all the rage these days, and this one was pretty tasty. Photo: Sam Lawrie

We started on the sausage roll. The pastry was light and flaky, and it was less salty and “meatier” than you might buy at a well-known chain bakery – I won’t name names, but I think you can guess.

The sweets were equally delicious. The flapjack was very sweet and sticky, while the blueberry muffin was soft and fruity without being overly sweet.

You can't beat freshly baked cakes and cold orange juice.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
You can’t beat freshly baked cakes and cold orange juice. Photo: Sam Lawrie

We finished our meal sipping our drinks while watching someone successfully dock their houseboat at the water’s edge after nearly colliding with the boat ahead.

My juice was tangy and fresh with lots of nice orange bits, which I personally prefer, and the latte was good – you can’t go too wrong with a latte, but there’s something particularly relaxing about a good coffee on Saturday morning.

I have to admit I appreciate our place under the tree with lots of shade while we ate.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
I have to admit I appreciate our place under the tree with lots of shade while we ate. Photo: Sam Lawrie

The food was good, but not outstanding, and what I think most people come here for is the atmosphere.

Not only is this quaint cafe located along the lock which that morning was glistening with sunshine and lined with beautiful boats offering picturesque views, but it is also incredibly warm and inviting.

The view from where we sat was unexpectedly beautiful and really made breakfast special.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
The view from where we sat was unexpectedly beautiful and really made breakfast special. Photo: Sam Lawrie

There were dog treats and drinking bowls, free blankets to use if it was cold, and plenty of options for different dietary needs.

Dogs are clearly welcome at the Little Old Toll House.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
Dogs are clearly welcome at the Little Old Toll House. Photo: Sam Lawrie
Luckily it was warm enough that we didn't need blankets, but that's a good idea.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
Luckily it was warm enough that we didn’t need blankets, but that’s a good idea. Photo: Sam Lawrie

I left feeling that real thought had been given to the needs and experience of the customers, despite the fact that no customers set foot in the cafe.

With its perfect riverside location and utterly charming atmosphere, it’s easy to see why this little cafe packs a punch.

A walk along Allington Lock with a stop at this cafe was a great way to spend the morning.  Photo: Sam Lawrie
A walk along Allington Lock with a stop at this cafe was a great way to spend the morning. Photo: Sam Lawrie

Out of five:

Food: Many choices and all tasted fresh and of good quality ****

Beverage:The fresh orange juice really hit the spot after a late night, and the latte was okay too****

Decor: The quirky decor, with its colorful signs, chalk menus and deckchairs, makes this small building really welcoming, and the view is breathtaking *****

Personal: It was a brief exchange, but the server was pleasant enough ****

Price:£3.75 for a somewhat stiff flapjack, but everything else was a good price***

Is this the smallest cafe in the county?

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