Pulling into the car park at the side of the Hove Park Tavern the heavens opened and it hissed (sic)* down.

Luckily I escaped getting totally drenched because someone had thoughtfully left the side fire door open.

Gratefully I dived into the pub and was pleased to see I wouldn’t have to queue at the bar.

I was less pleased to see the footie featured on both screens was Aston Villa v Colchester, can you honestly think of anything more boring?

Now, in recent weeks, I have taken a fair tongue lashing about my descriptions of the good men and women serving behind the bars of our excellent pubs.

Well, I warn you now I’m about to go into great detail about this particular lady and I do it unashamedly because any reasonable person is well aware bar staff are a vital part of what makes a particular boozer the sort of place you want to visit. In some cases they make or break the place.

I was greeted by a beautifully presented barmaid who seemed to live by the tattoo tastefully scribed across the upper left side of her chest – ‘Don’t worry, be happy’.

I knew immediately I was going to enjoy this spying visit.

I ordered a pint of Sharp’s Atlantic (4.2 per cent) for £3.80 which claimed on the label it was an exceptional pale ale. Sadly it wasn’t.

When it was being poured it came out of the tap in lumps and I’m afraid a first taste told me something was very wrong, it had an awful bitter, vinegary taste.

But, and here’s the important thing, this can happen in any pub at any time. Anywhere can have a bad barrel or an unforeseen issue with the pipes. The key is that as soon as I mentioned it, I immediately knew the customer comes first in this pub.

I wasn’t questioned and had a replacement pint of Harvey’s thrust into my hand that tasted just right.

And, my impression of this fine barmaid only improved a moment later when her dad walked in.

There was no doubting her daughterly devotion when you saw the loving welcome, but, and again this is important, she waited until after she’d served me, who she didn’t know from Adam.

Unfortunately the guy accompanying her dad, I think his name was Vivian, must have a job in H&S or he was feeling the cold as he shut the fire door.

A great pub is like a circus in that it is controlled by a good ringleader. The ringleader here is respected, trusted, liked and loved. There are several examples of such landladies but they are usually developed over decades, this particular example has mastered the art already, despite her tender years.

Other than the great service, this is a place that takes its games very seriously – it has three pool tables no less and each has all the requisite space required around them.

The darts board is less obvious but again perfectly placed.

There is a fruitie, a quiz machine and ads for some very specific musical delights – on September 16 you can catch Pete Valentine as George Michael and Wham but if you wait until the 30th you’ll get croaky oke with Bernie.

Through the downpour I could just glimpse some outdoor seating and inside there were some toys in one corner to keep the kids amused.

It’s a big old place but there were just gaggles of blokes around the bar, a couple of women in the window and a two couples at the bar when I was in.

One big fellow at the bar was the nicest Scouser I’ve never met but his taxi arrived and he was off.

Conor with the hair and his girlfriend with the shades on her head had argued all night but it seemed good natured and by the time I left they were deep in discussion with the barmaid about the celebs they fancy – I hear Tom Huddleston is a complete wet wipe.

This is a big old corner much without masses of character – but the character shines out brightly from behind the bar and for that alone I claim it a brilliant boozer worth a visit.


Decor: ★★★☆☆

It’s clean and tidy but unremarkable

Drink: ★★★☆☆

The second pint was a good example of Harvey’s

Price: ★★★☆☆

A fair price for a fair pint

Atmosphere: ★★★★☆

You don’t need to be local to be welcomed here

Staff: ★★★★★

Mark my words, you will not find better