ARRIVING at the Black Dove to meet friends I was told there was a great room downstairs where we could all sit.

I headed straight down the stairs to see if there was enough space for our group but there were people inside already. They looked at me a little surprised as one of them seemed to be taking their clothes off.

I quickly averted my eyes and headed back upstairs wondering what sort of place I had found myself in.

Returning upstairs with a shocked look on my face I was informed by my pals that we had to sit upstairs as there was a life-drawing class going on in the aforementioned basement room.

“I wish I’d known that before I had stumbled in there” I said.

I must have looked like some sort of deranged Picasso wannabe. I felt like heading back down to apologise but I didn’t want to upset any naked people or appear like some kind of pervert coming back for more.

It was all good fun though and the truth is I loved every minute of my visit to The Black Dove.

What a pub and what lovely staff.

The chap behind the bar who looked like Rag ‘n’ Bone Man was an absolute gentleman and great barman, helping us with the vast array of drinks we were after. And the new barmaid looked like she was well suited to the role too. Always with a smile on her face and up for a chat. she recommended I have another look at the life drawing class as it sounded good but I thought I’d better not.

The place is full of interesting decoration including a piano halfway up the wall. Not too sure about the scary mask that looked like Jason Voorhees in the film Friday The 13th.

Past the main bar area there is a long, thinner section which runs along St James’s Street to the junction with Lower Rock Gardens.

The set-up inside means that although the pub can fit plenty in it does not take much to build an atmosphere.

It is far enough up St James’s Street to be far enough away from the main throng of street drinkers and others who seem to hand around Morrisons, their number ever increasing at present.

For my first drink I went for a pint of Hans. It is a great drinker’s drink if that makes sense. It barely touched the sides, proper cold with a nice clear, clean taste.

The Kernel was a fantastic beer too, very fruity, more of a taste to savour in fact.

My pals loved the dry rose, red wine and the tomato juice with Worcester sauce.

There were plenty of friendly people there to talk to.

One pair arrived fresh from an exchange with a man in St James’s Street who told them he was from another planet, and was completely serious, apparently.

That road does throw up some characters, it’s fair to say. It’s our version of what the old Bowery in New York was probably like.

Or the old Brixton Road or Dalston from PubSpy’s younger days in London.

You see families walking up and down, there are scenes reminiscent of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. It reminds me of the origin of the word toe-rag at times.

Orwell’s description: “Less than half the tramps actually bathed.., but they all washed their faces and feet, and the horrid greasy little clouts known as toe-rags which they bind round their toes...”

But like I say The Black Dove is quite a way away from the worst of St James’s Street’s problems.

In fact there are some lovely seats outside where you can take in the fresh sea air and have a smoke.

All in all it is a lovely pub and I’ll be back.

I may return for the Musica Com Espirito event, “a musical excursion through all things south of the equator. All hand selected by Bob” on the first Friday of every month.

The Black Dove

St James’s Street


Decor: five stars

Great decoration and older ‘pubby’ feel

Drink: four stars

The beers went down far too easily

Price: three stars

Sadly £5 for a pint seems the norm these days

Atmosphere: four stars

It was a work night when I was there but I bet it is even better at weekends

Staff: five stars

Friendly, faultless and full of personality

If you would like to recommend a pub to the Spy then email and he will pass on your recommendations. Is there a pub he has missed so far? Do you have a favourite?