I WENT to Newhaven for the annual fish festival last weekend, which inspired me to go back to visit one of its pubs.

I really like Newhaven – it has its problems but I believe it has a certain charm. The fish festival was great. Stalls along the quay, I’d strolled all the way along from near the fort up to the festival where there were plenty of stalls and music, some great seafood for sale too.

I got as far as The Ark pub and having got lucky and enjoyed a spell in the sun, I was thirsty and in need of a drink.

Everyone and their dog seemed to be out having fun and plenty were having a beer or whatever took their fancy.

I’d made the mistake of driving so couldn’t enjoy a tipple. I wasn’t too bothered about that, ordering an orange juice and lemonade and looking forward to it too.

That was until the guy next to me ordered a Leffe and it was served up to him in one of those cool, wide Leffe branded glasses, the kind you might get in Belgium or the like.

It looked crisp and fresh, with a cool trickle of condensation running down the side. Suddenly I was very jealous and vowed to return ASAP.

So on my next free night I got the 12 bus over to Newhaven, trying to make the most of the late evenings before they start to draw in again.

The fish festival crowds having long gone, I built up a thirst with another stroll to the fort and back, past the LAST PUBLIC TOILETS BEFORE FRANCE sign, which always makes me laugh, because if you are heading south to France you have already passed the entrance to the ferry terminal.

I ambled towards The Ark, past a couple of hearty old fellows. One of them looked like a drunk and worn-out Captain Birdseye.

Have you seen the new, younger version in the adverts? Well this guy looked like the old one would have done if he had ended up on the sauce, damning his missed opportunities in life, wishing he hadn’t left the Fisherman’s Friends before they had become famous.

Another woman I met on the quay looked very friendly, the kind who would do anything for you for a fiver, reminding me that Brighton and Hove City Council ship off some people who need housing to Newhaven.

Some don’t like it there, wishing they were back on the streets in Brighton instead.

I took a moment to look at the pretty harbour, a little spoiled by the piles of metal in some kind of scrap facility on the other side, but still nice nonetheless, especially with the local rowing club taking to the water and the Seven Sisters ferry heading back into the harbour.

Suddenly all was well with the world and it felt idyllic.

With the sun going down I headed into The Ark.

This place feels more like a museum or craft shop than a pub at times.

They really have made an effort, as you can see from my pictures.

It is quirky and inventive.

You’ve got the front of a Volkswagen van on the wall with working lights, plus greenery hanging from the ceiling.

The walls have lizards and all sorts painted on them and I loved the bottle lights on the tables, held up by stands made out of soldered pipes.

The time had come. I had been looking forward to it for days. I noticed a guy already enjoying a sip out of his Leffe glass.

It was worth the wait too, that slightly syrupy but distinctively lagery taste, ideal as a sipping drink, a good lager to have as a half.

You would be on the floor if you drank pints of the stuff for the night, or out on the quay with old Captain Birdseye.

Saying that, it didn’t last long and I was soon on to another one, sitting in the hairdresser chairs at the end of the bar. Either that or they were dentist chairs as they reclined all the way back to horizontal.

I leaned a little too vigorously and was suddenly staring at the ceiling.

I looked like Gazza celebrating the goal against Scotland in that famous dentist’s chair position after a few of the players had been spotted doing some enthusiastic team bonding on a night out before Euro 96.

Back in the upright position I enjoyed some fantastic tapas. Prawns, chicken in a nice sauce with garlic, onions, peppers and chilli. Then there was steak strips and a tasty dish of chorizo, peppers and potatoes.

The Ark is a gem of a place, great for a drink and a meal.

It’s well worth a summer trip out – a short walk south on the west side of the harbour and conveniently five minutes from the bus stop if you’ve had one Leffe too many.


The Ark, West Quay, Newhaven

Decor: Five stars

I have to give it top marks for effort and it really does look good.

Drink: Four stars

I’ve said enough about the Leffe but apart from a Harveys Best not too many ales that I could see.

Price: Four stars

My Leffe was £2.70 but I think it was supposed to be £3.20. A 250ml Merlot is £6.50.

Atmosphere: Three stars

One guy looked a bit down on his luck. One couple looked like they were internet dating, a tiny bit awkward.

Staff: four stars

The fella told me he was learning the ropes before manging The Ark’s new sister venue in Lewes. He was friendly and helpful. I think he’ll do well.