I drifted through the herby haze created by those sitting out front at The Stoneham in Hove and wondered where the place got its name.

The massive bar had a big head at one end and an eagle at the other, so no clues here. In the middle of the bar was a guy lining up three shots and insisting they were filled right to the brim – a pointless exercise as he was never going to be able to transport the entire contents back to his mates outside.

I asked the senior barmaid about the origins of The Stoneham as she had a giant head and a large bird, but she had even less idea than the bloke with the shots – he did at least guess they’d been made with plaster of Paris.

I wondered if the barmaids were the salt of the earth types I enjoy encountering so much, but Mrs P made her decision straight away and was in no doubt.

The place, which feels a bit like a barn, has obviously had a makeover in recent years and has been crammed full of the types of tat people think a made-over pub needs. They were wrong, this place is decked out with the worst possible ephemera. Thankfully the fairy lights, which are strung up everywhere, weren’t switched on as they would only have highlighted the false antlers and dodgy retro lights, not to mention reflecting badly in the glitter ball.

The old gas fire had been converted back to a real fire, but unlit it felt as cheerless and soulless as the rest of the place.

You could argue the wooden floors and crusty old rugs are rustic, but even my old mum, who was loathe to chuck anything out, wouldn’t have given these things house room.

I sank, a little deeper than I expected, into one of the “leather” sofas and as a result struggled to reach my pint of Maltsmiths IPA from the elephant-headed table. This was a pity as the pint was excellent, I’ve always thought this American-style IPA, at 4.6 per cent, is actually more like an English cask ale. It’s got great citrus flavours and very little after taste, it really hit the spot – by far the best thing about the pub. Drink in hand I surveyed the rest of the clientele and apart from the most tattooed man in the world, everyone else was barely out of their prams. This place must have the lowest average age of any boozer in the city. I was surrounded by a sea of teenagers.

Now, I reckon you can tell a lot about a pub by three things – the smiles of the staff, the state of the toilets and any notices pinned up around the place. Here, the first was non-existent, I’ll get back to the second later, and the third was fascinating.

All around the bar were A4 posters proclaiming what a family friendly place The Stoneham is – great, you might think. However, the pleas for adults to keep control of their offspring sounded a bit too desperate and begging for my liking. And the fact a specific extra line was required to state scooters shouldn’t be ridden inside the pub makes me think it must be a real bear garden at times. And talking of gardens there is a large area outside, uninhabited while I was in, with more wooden tables and stacks of white and red plastic chairs. There is also an old red phone box, complete with the old phone and a pile of old gardening pots. In fact, the end of the garden looked a bit of a dumping ground for old rubbish.

By the time I was back inside, the tattooed man and the entire creche had left so this monster pub felt a little lonely. I assume it must fill up at some point but it’s hard to imagine it buzzing.

I didn’t sample the food and the menu looked a tad expensive for what was on offer, but they do advertise a Stoneham Smokehouse, which I assume refers to the food and nothing else, so it may be worth sampling.

There is no dartboard, pool table, jukebox, fruit machine or quiz machine – maybe that’s why the kids take their scooters.

You’d only need to follow your nose to find the gents and there’s a strange cattle grid contraption sitting across it. I’m not sure if this was intended as a grid to stop solids or was previously a fence arrangement to stop you falling in? Falling in here could be a danger as the strength of the ammonia blinds you to the point you could topple over.

There was no sign declaring whether the Stoneham welcomes dogs, but a sticker on the website assures it is dog friendly, as well as family friendly. It also all looked fully accessible for disabled folk.

So, to sum up, it’s a large old place to go and chat – free from the distractions of screens and machines. The beer was darned good, but they’ve tried too hard, and failed to make it look welcoming. The toilets need jet washing from top to bottom and the staff need to remember they’re lucky to be living and working in a great city – cheer up for goodness sake.