It was “hissing down”, so I was delighted to find refuge in the Shakespeare’s Head.
Stripped floorboards, twinkling lights, strategically placed candles and just the right amount of posters festooning the walls.
You get the picture, you must have seen it many, many times around town – this place is full-on shabby chic.
Mind you, looking at the bulge in the plaster over the door I wouldn’t sit under that for too long – shabby chic or not, that looks like it could come down any moment.
There were only four punters in the front bar so I pulled up a stool and joined them.
I couldn’t help noticing a plastic pineapple on the bar but I wasn’t in the mood for pina colada so opted for a pint of Dark Star American pale ale, weighing in at 4.7 per cent.
It cost £4.30 and while it wasn’t too bad there was definitely more of an after taste than I would have liked.
Still, it slipped down well enough and I turned my attention to my surroundings.
The chic really is full on – bunting strung across the place, a large round fish bowl taking up valuable bar space and Shakespeare knick-knacks in every available slot.
The locals seemed to be quizzing the pleasant, but I assume fairly new, barmaid about promotional half pint drinks.
She seemed as confused as me about what was going on and advised they waited until Rees returned.
Lo and behold, knowledgeable Rees then stepped in.
It seems he had been on a mercy mission for one of the locals and had picked up a pint of natural yoghurt.
The local, with a fag behind his right ear and a checked shirt, was very appreciative as he said it was exactly what he needed to make his dahl later.
He then got the friendly barmaid to put the pot in the fridge and wrote a Y on his hand as a reminder.
It certainly seems like a pub that believes in good customer service – oh, by the way, for those keeping notes, the yoghurt was £1.60.
It was time for another pint but after my previous experience I decided to taste first – and boy was I glad I did.
Let me tell you, No1 Tricky Table Beer is absolutely revolting – if the foul smell from it doesn’t put you off (which it should) then the taste certainly will.
I went instead for Source pale ale, 4.1 per cent, which was better but in my humble opinion, was nowhere near worth the £4.85 it cost.
I noticed the barmaid steered well clear of the beer and poured herself a half of Symonds cider – she obviously knew better than me.
Then, she went a step further and started munching Twiglets – well, I felt I had no choice but to try the crisps.
I suspected she was preparing me for the cost when she said: “They’re very special crisps.” Crikey, I should think they are at £1.10 for a pack of salt and vinegar.
This is a pub without darts, without fruit machines, no pool table – and definitely no jukebox.
The lighting is atmospheric and the jazz music matches it – this is place designed for meeting and talking.
I suspect that in the summer, when it’s not throwing down cats and dogs, the decked terrace, surrounded by railings pulls in a large number of people.
There is a quiz every second Wednesday of the month – it costs a quid with £40 going to the winner and sexy last place prize (whatever that is).
In line with one or two other local pubs I’ve noticed there is also a life drawing class on the first Thursday of the month – it’s £6 and you have to bring your own materials, I assume the model is provided.
The toilets are shabby and smelly, probably par for the course.
On the food front, I wasn’t there long enough to eat but the menu looked good with prices ranging from about £10 to £15.
It was, if you believe the blackboard, all local stuff: Sussex pork belly; Sussex chicken; Sussex meat trio; Sussex rare roast rump; Sussex lamb shank.
So, what else can I tell you?
The log fire was made up, but not lit, and there are a pile of logs in the second bar.
Some wit, who decided not to be overly rude, had used the plastic letters provided on the side of the bar to spell out the words “moobs” and “wedgey”.
If I had stayed I would have chosen one of the bashed up stools and had bangers and mash for £9.95 but Mrs PubSpy had promised something special for tea so I headed back into the rain.
- Thanks for all the suggestions. I’ll visit as many pubs as possible over the next few weeks.
SHAKESPEARE’S HEAD, 1 CHATHAM PLACE, BRIGHTON
Decor: ★★★ (Out of five)
Shabby chic in the extreme
Not the greatest tasting ale I’ve experienced
Again, I think this one’s a bit pricey
Nice friendly folk, ready to chat
Nice to see a barmaid drinking herself for once