Traditionally tiled and looking every inch a back-street boozer, I entered the Montreal Arms to a cacophony of laughter – I just hoped they were laughing with me.

I’d been called into Argus HQ for a spot of business so, despite the drizzle, decided to walk up through the side streets and see what I came across.

I spotted The Setting Sun in Windmill Street, but closer inspection revealed it was closed for refurbishment and property manager Dave Wilbor was having trouble contacting the gas meter engineer.

On I trekked up to Albion Hill and into the Montreal.

The bubbly blonde barmaid, who I liked immediately, reckons you’ve earned a pint by walking up the hill past all the multi-coloured houses.

This is a traditional old U-shaped bar and while I was in, one set of punters stuck to the left and another group to the right.

The laughter, which just about outranked their coughs and splutters, came from a group of two women and two blokes on the left who sat at the bar puffing on hefty electronic fags.

Maltsmiths IPA was front and centre, but I decided to go for the Harvey’s Sussex.

The barmaid did warn me it was the first pull of the day and advised I taste it carefully.

I’m pleased she did as it clearly wasn’t right.

A second pint confirmed both our fears, that it had gone off, and she quickly turned the pump clip back to face the bar.

I reverted to the Maltsmiths, which was well poured and tasty.

The barmaid was drinking a pint herself and moved effortlessly between the group on the left and the right, laughing with, and insulting, each in turn.

It was immediately apparent she is the glue holding the Montreal together.

OK, alerted by a horn sound on her mobile, she was also regularly checking messages on her phone, but never to the detriment of a customer.

The place has a stack of dark stained wood and the type of slightly worn carpet which tells you it’s a proper old-fashioned boozer.

Even ignoring the trophies, the dartboards, one on each side, tell you it has some serious dart teams. On the subject of trophies, there’s a great collection of what look like home-made ones on a shelf behind the bar billiard table – again, this is a proper table and the best I’ve seen in Brighton.

By now Lorraine had switched from a pint to a Coke but I assume the fridge must have had a funny moment as it was frozen to a heavy slush – not put off, Lorraine used a straw to tease out her drink.

Sheryl Crow’s Home was playing through the speakers at a reasonable level and there were a few nice touches – two big bunches of flowers, one in each fireplace and the place is well-lit for this time of day.

I passed the left-hand group, discussing parking tickets, bus lanes and Sheridan Smith’s latest show to tackle the quiz machine. Breaking even on a quizzer is a good result for me and the bonus was meeting Dotty, a dear old Jack Russell, who was just as friendly as the punters.

At 4.43pm two decorators dived through the door and two pints of Stella were poured without them needing to say a word – although Ronan, who was accused of being able to smell a pint at 50 yards, was asked for a tune, he didn’t oblige.

It’s a sign of a decent pub when hardworking blokes head there immediately after they down tools.

There are two written notes on the bar – “Cash only, no card facilities” and “Toilets for customers only, thank you”. I was paying for my pints with readies so was entitled to visit the gents, which I can report were a little chilly and old fashioned but clean and fresh smelling.

There wasn’t a hint of graffiti, though there was a combination lock on the cubicle, which was a pity as the temperature left me needing to blow my nose.

The beer garden is out back too but peering through the window I think that’s too grand a term. I’d say an outside shed with a light and some green plastic chairs – you’d need to be an ardent smoker to spend much time here.

Back in the bar Stephen, a member of the right-hand group, was having a fascinating Brexit discussion and somehow blaming the whole fiasco on people from Islington.

Someone, not me of course, must have left the door open on the way back in and Stephen was immediately blamed and sent to shut it by Lorraine.

The mildest of retorts from Stevie led to an immediate, perfectly delivered, “f*** off” from Lorraine. Straight away I liked her and the pub more – everyone knows where they stand, and everyone gets it, what’s more they love it. It might have that old pub smell and could certainly do with a bit of TLC, but it’s worth a walk up the hill.

Montreal Arms

62 Albion Hill Brighton BN2 9NX

Decor: three stars

There’s no doubt it could do with a lick of paint, but the place is kept clean

Drink: two stars

Shame about the Harvey’s but it happens, the Maltsmiths was fine

Price: three stars

Harveys would have been £4, the IPA and Stella were both 50p more expensive

Atmosphere: three stars

It was early in the day, but the banter was good natured

Staff: five stars

Lorraine is the hostess with the mostest, she’s what makes this place tick

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