TWICE in a row now I’ve fallen at the first hurdle. Last week The Setting Sun was bolted up and dark, so I wandered on a few hundred more yards or so to sample The Montreal.

This week I went in search of something rarer than rocking horse poo – a decent old-fashioned boozer on the seafront. But, the door of The Globe, which said it was open until 2am, was locked tight by 8pm.

So, I headed for the light shining from The Hop Poles – was this that rarest of things?

There wasn’t a stack of ales on offer, but, recommended to try Scaramanga IPA (3.9%) from the Gun Brewery, I duly did. It was mildly citrus but overall a bit watery and not tasting of a great deal. I’d say the taste was subtle at best and hard to notice at worst.


I wondered if the dog treats on the bar might have a little more taste, but realised they weren’t intended for me.

However, just behind them was a sign offering 2-4-1 burgers on both a Monday and Tuesday and, as I’ve received some flak for not sampling the food on recent visits I decided to take full advantage of this offer.

The unassuming barmaid with lovely red, curly hair (see, they’re not always blonde) took my order for a Forest burger, topped with wild mushrooms and blue cheese, plus a veggie burger, grilled halloumi, grilled aubergine, guacamole and rocket.

She explained the offer only covered classic and veggie burgers, but the chef kindly agreed to just add a couple of quid. So, for £11.95 we got two fantastic meals.

My burger was delivered by the chef himself and came with exactly the sort of accoutrement you’d expect... fries, coleslaw, salad, but I cannot speak highly enough of the main ingredient. I’ve had some great burgers in pubs, hotels and restaurants in Brighton, but this was the king of them all, perfectly cooked it was an absolute delight.

To go with it I shifted up a gear to a different IPA, a pint of Chieftain (5.5%) from the Franciscan Well Brewery. This is a totally different beast, cherry red in colour it is a much better-balanced beer and offers much better flavours – it might come from a major brewer, but it has all the character of a well-nurtured artisan ale.


So, back to my original question, does this boozer fit the bill? There’s a lot to like, it might have a few trendy elements but most of the furnishings are perfectly worn, with the sort of patina you’d expect from a good antique.

Old Surf boxes and other antiques litter the shelves and I particularly liked the old radio and soda syphon.

There is a chandelier and a mirror but there’s no pool table, no darts, no quizzer, no jukebox – in fact, no games or messing about of any sort.

The barmaid and chef weren’t larger than life, but they were totally professional and attentive when required, at other times she was on her mobile phone at one end of the bar.

The music I noticed was from Steely Dan and Neil Young, it certainly didn’t dominate and, although there were plenty of tall stools at the bar, they weren’t filled by the backsides of locals, so you could order a drink.

Everyone was made to feel incredibly welcome, including the well-shorn old Dulux dog flopped out at the back of the pub.

The outside garden area is as incorporated into the main pub as much as it’s possible to be. It was being fairly well used in February, so I bet it’s packed in the summer, despite backing onto a car park. There a picture of the Pavilion and a sign warning you to look after your belongings.


Inside there are old hops everywhere (close to their sell by date) and every lampshade at the bar is a little bit different – just a pity they still felt the need for one string of fairy lights.

If I had to be incredibly picky, and I really don’t want to be, the toilets are the one area that could do with a makeover. OK, there was rhubarb and raspberry handwash in the gents and a colourful corridor leading to them, but the tell-tale rawlplugs in the wall tell me it’s had at least five new hand dryers since last being decorated. I might ask the subs to include a picture of the graffiti in the ladies. I agree, there’s nothing wrong with nipples.

I reckon I had been incredibly lucky and had discovered a decent, old-fashioned boozer “pretty much” on the seafront – box ticked.

The Hop Poles

13 Middle Street, Brighton BN1 1AL

Decor: HHHH

Toilets apart, this one is exactly as a pub should be – no makeovers here please.

Drink: HHH

Scaramanga isn’t bad, but the Chieftain is much better – a reasonable selection available.

Price: HH

A James Bond baddie costs £4.50, the Chieftain tops a fiver at £5.20, premium G&T £6.

Atmosphere: HHHHH

Spot on, it’s hard to imagine a better midweek buzz in a pub around here.

Staff: HHHH

Great service from some very pleasant people, keep up the good work.

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