YOU can cut the smell with a knife as you enter The Branch.

Like many things in life, wives, porridge, drizzle, you do become accustomed to it after a while but the stench as you first walk through the door at this London Road boozer could leave lesser men reeling.

Looking about the place it was quickly apparent what was causing the funky fug that hangs about the place – it’s a not-so-subtle mix of a variety of human body odours, decrepit, stained furniture and unwashed surfaces. The soft furnishings are the grubbiest I’ve seen anywhere.

I would say this is one boozer that could desperately do with a little TLC, but that would be unfair. No, what this pub needs is completely gutting and starting again. Jack hammers and a flame thrower would make a marked improvement.

There were three pumps at the bar but I was quickly informed none of them were attached to beer of any sort so, although I was offered a John Smiths, I decided to play safe and opted for a pint of 1664.

The double denim barman called Sam is a friendly enough soul and to his credit I must say he made the best of a bad job. By his own admission he is new to The Branch and I want to say at the outset he is by far the best thing about the place. He even turned down the music in an understanding way so he could hear me to take my order. I was then able to ask him to play it again.

By this stage a bobble-hatted fellow with massive, hairy ears and a couple of his own teeth almost threw himself off his stool by laughing so uproariously at the TV – the fact it was showing re-runs of Mr Bean somehow seemed very apt.

He then spent several minutes in a heated discussion… with himself, before lumbering through the door for a fag.

The Bean fan was sitting at the strange-shaped central aisle area in the middle of the pub but across at a small table in front of the window two other regulars were staring at each other intently and consuming considerable quantities of lager through a limited number of blackened teeth. They ordered pints four at a time.

Clearly related and it soon became obvious they were father and youngest son.

Dad piped up to slur: “We graft and we drink, that’s it”.

According to the loyal locals the landlord sold up and moved to The Mitre. They would have followed him but didn’t like the shape of the pub.

They all seemed impressed the place only closed for a week before the new owners stepped in – wasn’t a bulldozer available?

It’s incredible when you think about it, only football fans and pub regulars would display this sort of loyalty. Of course, they’ll moan like hell about their team or their boozer but the very idea of being disloyal and defecting would be beyond the pale.

I mentioned food but was frankly relieved when they said it wasn’t available. I enquired about crisps but they said the order had been delayed. However, they did say I was welcome to go to any takeaway or shop and bring in whatever I liked. I toyed with the idea of popping out to buy half a dozen bottles of bleach and a mop.

At this point a couple of long haired and long jumpered people came in to play pool really badly – though as Monday is free pool night, at least it didn’t cost them anything to practice.

The couple playing darts were equally atrocious and equally dangerous.

As well as pool and darts there’s a jukebox and a couple of fruit machines.

The pub has two screens and a stack of ads for footie games plastered about the place so it must show matches when they are on.

To be fair I didn’t think the toilets could smell worse than the pub and they didn’t – there was even an air freshener, obviously long since empty, but still there. It was the standard tiled and mildly graffitied gents you would expect.

Back in the bar father and son had ordered pizza on BOGOF deal and were happily sharing on the bar with a grateful Sam.

Strangely at this point it became quite busy and four lads came in to take a table and get straight on the Stella.

Another guy, with round blond rings in his hair that looked a bit like crop circles, also popped in with his mate.

Jade, with short pink hair, who worked here previously was cranking up the music again so I finished up and headed for the fresh air.

Looking up as I left I noticed a desperate plea on the ceiling for all customers to respect one another.

I bade them farewell and respectfully left, if I’m lucky, never to return.

The Branch – 52-53 London Road, Brighton BN1 4JX

Decor: * It’s in more desperate need of a facelift than Johnny Vegas.

Drink: ** The Kronie was okay, but you can’t really go wrong with that.

Price: *** £4.40 isn’t too bad for a pint of lager in the city.

Food: Non-existent, even the crisps have moved out! BYO only.

Atmosphere: * One star because at least it got busier later.

Staff: **** How long Sam will stick I don’t know, but he’s great.