JUST a stone’s throw from Brighton station, The Queens Head is another perfect venue to test my theory about pubs near railway stations.

As an Indigo pub it was always going to be big on sport, but the way the bar is set up this certainly isn’t your first impression.

In fact, as there weren’t any games on while I was in, the screens and projectors at both sides of the bar were switched off and unobtrusive.

I’m a huge fan of the communal spirit sport can create in a pub, but if there’s nothing specific on then I reckon switch the screens off, or better still, roll them up.

As a result, the impression you get is of an old fashioned, heavily wooden place with a large, imposing central bar and a serious chandelier.

I literally bumped into a very nice guy called Marcus on the way in who immediately said, “sorry fella” and stood back as he felt my need for a first pint was far greater than his need for a third.

He also offered to share his newspaper, but as it was a Metro I politely declined. Note to editor, you could do worse than get a few copies of The Argus in here.

He moved across to the retro space invader machine and allowed his girlfriend to abuse him from 20 feet across the bar.

I’d already taken the average age up considerably and I assume this one is popular with local students. There was also half a dozen Frenchies in, again very young and also unfeasibly trendy and cool. In fact, they looked cool like only young French people can – even the guy in a green Puffa jacket that made him look like an early Christmas tree oozed cool. Coincidentally, I noticed the majority of people were wearing blue and white stripe tops but I’m sure that was just a coincidence.

Both the barmaids were bubbly and brilliant, but it was the non-tattooed one with the great hair that really impressed me with her knowledge. As a result, I tried both the 5.4 per cent Gamma Ray and 5.5 per cent Chieftain before opting for the latter.

I know this IPA from Franciscan Well has received some bad press, but I absolutely love it. It leaves a full nutty taste on your tongue. It’s darker than most IPAs and the first few sips leave you guessing but as you get into the pint it really delivers.

The music was eclectic, we had Bruk Off Yuh Back by Knoshens and My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone. There were two flights of stairs and some bright green walls to get to the gents but when you eventually got there they were clean and odour free – another big plus point.

The pub’s website reckons you’ll want to gaze out of the large windows to watch the hustle and bustle as commuters, shoppers and tourists rush by all day. In my experience you’re much more likely to see gaggles of students and a motley collection of homeless waifs and strays. To be honest, the interior is far more interesting with its old bird cage containing a pot plant, gilt mirrors, the slowest fan in the world and walls plastered in old newspapers and magazines. There are even old Evening Argus diary pages pasted up.

OK, so you’re still plagued by strings of infernal fairly lights and motley collection of utility (kitchen/classroom) furniture but other than that it’s well done out and very welcoming.

There are no pool table or darts boards for entertainment so I headed for the quiz machine, but closer inspection showed I’d been fooled as this was another of these infernal modern fruit machines I detest.

Back in my seat I got the Munchies and checked out the menu. If you like pizza you’ll love the menu as that’s all there is on it, and it comes in a box. The pub doesn’t do food itself but has an arrangement with Next Stop Pizza, a sort of pizza caravan outside the station. From noon until 2pm Monday to Friday all pizzas are a fiver, otherwise this wood-fired delicacy ranges from £6.50 to £8.

I didn’t see anyone else order in, but both the barmaids took delivery and were hugely impressed by the size of what arrived.

I though decided to sneak in a quick pint of Staropramen instead and save my hunger for another little tip I’d been given, which I’ll share with you in a second.

In the pub the twinkling tealights had just started to go out on the tables, Jazz the barmaid pulled on her coat to pop out for a fag and my Continental friends headed into the night.

As the place quietened down I too decided to make my exit.

But, and here’s my number one tip this week. Just around the corner, hidden away below an arch under the station, is a little place called Alushi – it’s so small and individual it could almost be described as street food – but this little Lebanese place is one of the best you’ll find anywhere. A real hidden gem.

The Queens Head – 69 Queens Road, Brighton BN1 3XD
Decor: ★★★ Obviously had a makeover, but not overdone, I liked The Argus on the walls.
Drink: ★★★★ Not everyone’s favourite, but I reckon this Chieftain is a great winter warmer  
Price: ★★ The IPA weighed in at £5.10, Starpromen was dearer at £5.25
Atmosphere: ★★★ One heck of a lot better than most pubs by stations 
Staff: ★★★★ High marks for a couple of great barmaids, one in particular was top rate 
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