Light and laughter spilled out and sheer joy radiated from everyone in the bar.

From the second I set foot in The Great Eastern I knew it was a pub after my own heart.

It was early on a Friday evening but I’d bet my mortgage there’s a fantastic atmosphere in here at any time of the day or night.

The place was busy and bustling. Even the limited space on the pavement outside was filled to overflowing. But somehow, there always seemed to be a nook or cranny for everyone to perch, to chat, to enjoy the richest and warmest bonhomie.

As I gazed along the solid wooden bar at all the delights on offer I had to remind myself I’ve still got a few days of dry October to go and chose a ginger beer.

Sitting on a stool next me at the bar was one of the most fantastically bearded gentlemen I’ve ever come across.

Not one of these modern, manicured nonsenses but a grey, flowing beard that had been lovingly grown for years.

The student barmaid was just finishing serving my new hirsute friend and was explaining she loved the job but was finding it tough waking up with a hangover every morning. The difficulty, it seems, is she gets on so well with the regulars they are constantly buying her drinks and she ends up having one great night after another.

You’d think being a student she’d be used to it.

There were actually three bar staff in action for the Friday night and she was accompanied by two more excellent beards. They were all efficient, friendly and gave the impression there was nowhere else they’d rather be.

An excellent selection of beers is on offer, not to mention the bourbons and American whiskies the pub specialises in – I made a mental note to return when I’m back on the booze.

Of all the places I’ve reviewed so far, this is the pub I’d most like to call my local.

By now I was ready for another drink but rather than face ginger beer again I was advised by the barmaid, who was by now dancing along to the music, to try a non-alcoholic beer called Erdinger.

On her recommendation I sampled what turned out to be an incredibly refreshing isotonic drink from Weissbrau. Half a litre was £2.50 and I was amazed by the quality of this non-alcoholic beer.

I’ve got no intention of staying on the wagon after Halloween, but if I did this is what I’d be drinking – it really is an excellent alternative.

I passed the bottle to my new, bearded friend for a taste and, although he was on the cider, he was in complete agreement – this German brew is worth considering.

Two women who’d joined us at the bar were now quizzing the barmaid about the pub’s speciality and were being advised to sample the Templeton Rye. Seeking snacks too, I couldn’t believe the huge number of flavours on offer. The list seemed endless.

A couple of card players had taken up residence in the window to my left and started playing what looked like a game of cribbage. I might have been wrong, but they were taking the scoring very seriously whatever they were playing.

I couldn’t help noticing the shape of the windows behind them which, like everything else in The Great Eastern, looks perfectly designed and right at home.

Even the strings of fairy lights, which could easily look cheesy and tacky, manage to add to the overall classy feel.

Everything old and beautifully traditional has been retained and, at the same time, the place has been adapted and made comfortable enough to create the perfect city pub.

I even loved the little shelf with leaflets by the door and the notice politely reminding regulars to consider the neighbours and not take drinks outside after 11pm.

This is, without doubt, the best pub I’ve visited since I was lucky enough to land this gig almost a year ago.

The atmosphere is fantastic and all the staff are professional, slick and friendly.

While I was there people were constantly in and out through the door. Some just stayed for a quick drink, others met up with friends and were clearly settling in for the evening.

Whether it’s a short visit or an extended stay, everyone is welcomed the same and there is no sense newcomers are treated any differently to the regulars.

Having listened to the quite brilliant barmaid’s concerns about being hung over I left her a reasonable tip and headed into the night.

I hope she felt OK on Saturday morning.


Decor: ★★★★★

This is the perfect city pub

Drink: ★★★★★

I’ll visit again when I’m back on the hard stuff

Price: ★★★☆☆

I reckon £2.50 on a bottle of Erdinger is money well spent

Atmosphere: ★★★★★

Brilliant, warm, friendly and 100 per cent welcoming

Staff: ★★★★★

A great pair of beards and a top notch dancing barmaid