doc

Hidden away behind the Hilton, if you weren’t already aware of the Queensbury Arms you’d be unlikely to come across it by chance.

In a former life it was the Hole in the Wall and claims to be Brighton’s smallest pub – it even proudly displays a blue plaque stating as much on the outside. It would need to be outside as there’s very little wall space left inside.

Venturing into the plush red velvet interior just after eight I was disappointed to discover I was the only customer in sight.

The greeting from behind the bar this particularly Thursday evening was warm and cheery, even though, by his own admission, he only usually works Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays when he says more regulars are in.

But, I needn’t have worried, as the barman was more than happy to chat about his own history and share what he knew about the pub.

Apparently it started life as one of the first pubs on the seafront and was popularised by fisherman when they returned from battling the waves. However, because they’d been away for days and stank to high heaven there was no way they could be allowed into the pub. They were therefore served their ale through a hatch – hence the hole in the wall. I’ve no idea whether it’s true but it’s a nice story.

Many years later it became a boxing pub and the walls of the Queensbury Arms used to be adorned with all sorts of boxing memorabilia. I assume the name preceded the decorations, but my host wasn’t clear on this.

What he did know was that the current manager is more into theatre life and during his 17 years in charge has transformed every spare inch of wall space into an homage to the stage.

The majority of these posters are originals and a fair number are signed, so it’s perhaps not surprising the manager has seen fit to screw them to the wall.

Apparently Wendy Richard used to be a regular years ago so you’ll find her picture includes her moniker.

The barman, who is convincing himself summer is still here by wearing his floral shorts, kept himself busy behind the red velvet curtains but still managed to maintain a monologue.

The flat upstairs where the manager lives, presumably the smallest in Brighton, means there will never be space for a kitchen so food is permanently off the menu at the Queensbury.

Instead, this little gem has to rely upon its locals and an occasional overspill from the Hilton.

I was promised regulars would arrive any moment to but there was still no sign by nine so I popped out to grab a bit to eat.

I returned just after 10pm but apparently the locals had been and gone again during that time so I was back on my lonesome with just another pint of San Miguel as company. These locals must be fleet of foot as they don’t hang around – I’m not sure how the balance sheet add ups.

Hopefully the Queensbury’s accounts are healthy and the fast-moving locals hang around long enough to keep the till jangling as losing a pub like this would be a big loss.

It has retained many traditional traits of a good old pub, beer towels cover the bar and beer mats are scattered around the heavy round metal tables. The tables are surrounded by even heavier stools. No chance of a bar brawl – the furniture’s too heavy to lift and you’d need someone to argue with.

Other old-style touches are a full price list, an original indenture and the fact the barman starts sweeping up at 10.15pm.

The gents is as petite as everything else but it’s floral smelling and I like the fact they’ve retained an ashtray by the urinal.

The music mix was pretty good while I was in and I also noticed a mirror ball, hinting at least that it must get livelier.

I’ll just have to try again during conference season to see if someone else is in for a chat.

QUEENSBURY ARMS, QUEENSBURY MEWS, BRIGHTON

Decor: ★★★☆☆

If theatre is your thing, you’re in for a treat

Drink: ★★★☆☆

A reasonable, if not expansive, selection

Price: ★★★☆☆

£4.35 for a pint of San Miguel this close to the sea isn’t bad

Atmosphere: ★☆☆☆☆

I did my best but it really needs other customers to constitute an atmosphere

Staff: ★★★★☆

A very pleasant, chatty fellow who somehow kept himself busy