Would you like a w***? Mad Mary in the Mad Hatter Inn was clearly determined the pub would live up to its name.

I politely declined her offer of a “Thomas Tank” in favour of a pint of Open Gate Citra IPA and wondered what someone might say to me next in this bizarre Kemp Town watering hole.

A big friendly fellow, with a beard matching mad Mary’s flowing locks, answered the question immediately: “This is a very odd pub but we odd folk love it”.

Surely the place couldn’t get any crazier, could it?

I took one look at the fellows playing pool behind a complete wall of flashing fairy lights and headed straight to the opposite side of the pub.

No sooner had I sat down, and I was joined by a huge, lumbering beast with feet the size of dinner plates.

This massive black ball of fur, by the name of Rocco, gave me a thorough licking before turning his full attention to blond barmaid Jo.

Standing at the bar, he began barking at a deafening level – in desperation she plucked a snack from one of the cards hanging behind her and flung the snack, bacon flavour I think, in his direction to shut him up.

No doubt about who’s in charge here then?

I assumed this friendly monster must be the pub hound but apparently he belongs to the lodger upstairs and simply comes and goes as he pleases, wandering in whenever he likes.

I assume other dogs would be allowed in too.

At this point one of the two blokes propping up the bar starting howling and barking too, but Jo wasn’t so keen to silence him with a meaty treat.

Leaving the madness for a moment I visited the gents.

The metal urinal was full to the brim with festering, foul, green slime and both sinks overflowing with grim grey stinking water.

No warning sign on the door, no apology or attempt to explain this total failure of the plumbing.

Back at the bar I questioned the filthy state of the toilets, but no-one was the slightest phased.

The story is the pub has ancient plumbing and the pipes are such a pain to work on no-one has been able to persuade a plumber to tackle the problem – they’ve been in this state for weeks.

Weirdly it looks as if cash has recently been spent on doing them up and re-tiling the place.

The cupboard was left ajar, but I didn’t dare look in there.

Like Rocco, I’d been hungry when I first walked in and had enquired about food.

The locals said food is no longer served following decisions to employ a series of “eccentric, highly-strung” chefs.

This may, or may not be the case, but having visited the facilities my appetite had miraculously disappeared anyway.

I’m told the pub was built in 1787 on the site of an old well and pre-dates most of Kemptown.

There are a few endearing features, the small mirror tiles on the bar and the chandeliers above it, but the beams look ridiculously false for an old place and the decision to paint both the fireplaces in purple must have been made by Mary.

There is detritus - waste and debris - everywhere, ranging from the now discarded numbered spoons in a bucket (presumably left from a time when food was served) to old books and a mass of other tat.

At one point, emerging from a back bar I hadn’t noticed, I was approached by a couple who wanted to know if I was a smoker as they were searching out free baccy.

Having disappointed them they returned to this unlit space and nothing was heard of them again – I didn’t see them get a drink.

Jo explained the beer lorry hadn’t delivered today and as most of the daytime drinkers only come in for Fosters and Kronenbourg both had run dry.

I switched from the IPA to Moretti – everything seems to be priced up in round numbers for ease, either £4 or £4.50.

The pipe problems in the gents have spread to the heating and Jo admits she has as much control over the radiators as she does Rocco.

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They come on and go off at will so regulars are in shirt sleeves one minute and donning coats the next.

There is a log burner between the pool table and the wall of fairy lights but there were no logs, presumably they were on the truck with the Fosters.

There was a fruit machine no-one went near and a TV screen that wasn’t on.

The music, however, was as eclectic and fascinating as the clientele – Abba, 10CC’s Dreadlock Holiday, You Sexy Thing, Lola and the Barry Manilow classic Copa Cabana.

Bizarrely, despite everything, Mad Mary, a festering cesspit in the bathroom and a smelly beast with a craving for snacks, I got a kick out of visiting this most aptly named pub.

Brits love eccentric people and take pleasure in the fact some great British boozers can survive and thrive even if they are dreadful.

This is a wonderfully dreadful pub.

Here's another classic review from the PubSpy:

The Pub Spy reviews: The County Oak, County Oak Avenue, Brighton

The Mad Hatter Inn – 7 Rock Street, Brighton BN2 1NF

Decor: one star

Tatty, dusty and bit smelly could all be forgivable, but that urinal has to be sorted

Drink: three stars

Guinness’ Citra IPA is okay without being great shakes, the Moretti was well served

Price: three stars

£4 for some pints and £4.50 for others, a G&T is £5.75, dog snacks are free.

Atmosphere: three stars

You will either laugh or cry – believe me it could go either way, any minute

Staff: four stars

Jo battles all the odds and deserves great credit for retaining a smile and sense of humour

Email me: pubspy@theargus.co.uk

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