THIS is a proper, proper pub. It looks, feels, smells and even tastes like a real pub.

Supporting the local music scene is clearly high on its agenda and you’re immediately confronted by walls of posters advertising the next bands due on stage. Mind you, the stage is minute so they won’t be hosting The Pogues or Arcade Fire any time soon.

Selecting a bar stool I nodded to my fellow drinkers, both seemed decent gents. The first was silver-bearded with a colourful, flowing scarf and was wearing no-nonsense shorts. After seeing him I didn’t notice what the other had on but they were both chatty and pleasant.

I was in a bit of a devil-may-care mood so selected a pint of 4.6 per cent Brighton Belle from the Hammerpot Brewery which cost me £3.80.

This was beautifully served by Claudia Winkleman, who just happened to be behind the bar. That’s not me naming the barmaid (real name Mary), it was her regulars. I think the joke came from a conversation where Claudia, sorry Mary, said she was going to get her hair cut like her heroine and didn’t trust herself to cut her own fringe.

By now the bearded shorts had departed and we were joined by bearded Michael instead who took a perch right at the far end of the bar – clearly his designated slot. He decided he should have a bottle (wine) today and started describing his morning exercises to the barmaid.

By now the music had turned to plink, plink piano stuff – decent enough as background noise but I could still hear rustling behind the bar. Closer investigation revealed two small versions of man’s best friend.

At this point I needed a second pint and decided to downgrade slightly to the 3.8 per cent Hop Head at £3.60. I asked if lunch was available but had to settle for Twiglets and a packet of crisps at £1.95 for the two. Serving these, Mary informed me she usually liked to have a guest beer on offer at 5.0 per cent or higher. She was particular proud of a 7.6 delicacy she secured last Christmas.

I made a little more small talk about bands and the strength of beer and then I stumbled upon the subject that clearly really fascinates Mary – she’s obviously a dog woman.

I’ll spare you all the details, but while she didn’t trust herself to cut her own fringe, she’d already got a Level 1 in dog grooming and was considering Level 2. She’d also been dog sitting a chihuahua called Ollie while the owners travelled to Norway to visit in-laws.

I excused myself to visit the gents which, if you’re interested, were functional, sweet smelling enough and plastered in posters just like the upstairs walls.

Returning to the bar I found Michael was getting a little agitated because his drinking partner Wendy was a no-show. My concern abated slightly when I realised Wendy was a grand total of seven minutes late. But Mary immediately offered to help, picked up the phone and offered to check on Wendy herself. Now that’s what you call good service or was she just keen to secure another customer?

By now I’d exhausted all my “doggie” talk and drained my second pint so I had to bid Michael and Mary a fond farewell.

Even before I’d made my way to the door Mary was making arrangements with Wendy on the phone with one hand and passing Michael a nosebag (packet of cheddars) with the other – this is a barmaid who likes to multitask.

What a great little pub and best of all, it hasn’t forgotten what it takes to be a great little pub. I highly recommend you pay The Neptune a visit.


Decor: ★★★ (Out of five)

Exactly the right type of tatty for a pub

Drink: ★★★

The Brighton Belle worth trying,but I might not repeat the experience

Price: ★★★

Twiglets seem a bit steep, but the beer’s about right

Atmosphere: ★★★★

Friendly folk you’d want to meet

Staff: ★★★★

I’d rather have Mary than Claudia any time

Food: N/A

I don’t think Twiglets and crisps count