WHEN the PubSpy read in The Argus about the huge refurbishment at The Smuggler’s Rest in Peacehaven in piqued his interest. But the place had not impressed him last time so the question was, would it pass the test this time after having a spruce up?

It’s fair to say that my previous trips to The Smuggler’s Rest have not filled me with a lot of joy. In my mind I can remember crisp packets in the flower pots outside and a boozer struggling to decide if it is a restaurant or a pub.

In fact I’ve been none too impressed with Vintage Inn places in general, which is a big shame as they tend to be in a great location.

The one at Devil’s Dyke and the Cuckmere Inn have breathtaking views of the countryside and coastline respectively. They just lack a bit of TLC and are worn at the edges.

It felt like a case of “if Sports Direct did pubs” this is what you would have. Barely a step up from a fast food place at times, especially at The Cuckmere, in terms of trying to get a seat and get served. Lovely places that you can’t help but like, normally with lovely staff but far too few of them and therefore under too much pressure.

So when I read in your beloved Argus that The Smuggler’s Rest had undergone a proper makeover I could not resist a return. It was all talk of “rural charm and rustic character with the picturesque surroundings providing the perfect backdrop”.

Well as soon as I arrived outside it looked brighter and smarter. Obviously the views out to sea are still breathtaking and the place now looks amazing with the new paintwork on the exterior of the building.

Would the inside be the same?

One word. Yes.

It really is smart. Some of the decoration may have that “distressed wood” style, but it looks fantastic. Beforehand it simply just looked genuinely distressed and worn out.

I went with friends and had booked a table to eat to try out the menu.

We were therefore led to a comfy and spacious corner with a nice big table and we were right near one of the log fires. It was late so though we were near the window we didn’t have anything to look out at. But I thought it must be very impressive in the daytime.

The place has had a proper spruce up. The wood panel walls are really smart and it does feel like a genuine country pub.

It was really busy but what really impressed me was the excellent staff. They waited on us hand and foot and were attentive and available for more drinks and food orders and questions. They had good knowledge of the menu too, which I didn’t necessarily expect. Obviously I was being too harsh.

Right let’s get down to business, what was the beer like?

It was still Yuletide when we were there so I went for their Jolly Holly ale.

It was very fruity and easy to drink, let’s say.

That’s why I quickly decided to have a second, just to make sure. At 3.8 per cent that was fine for me though.

A young relative was on the Stella Artois. I tried it and it was a lovely crisp, refreshing pint. In fact when he’d had a few I finished off his last one while he, erm, relaxed back in the seats, shall we say.

One of the ladies with us tried their pink rhubarb and raspberry gin and tonic. It looked the part and tasted the part too.

In fact that drink summed up the Smugglers for me. It now looks smart and backs that up with substance too. I love the old pictures around the pubs. All local from way back. They must have somebody that goes to places like The Keep and finds some real beauties.

It’s going to be hard for places like the Smugglers to truly feel like a cosy pub, especially seeing as it is massive. But it is very smart and made for a lovely visit.

After the refurb Darren Smith, landlord of The Smuggler’s Rest, said: “We wanted the new look to provide guests with a cosy pub where they can enjoy dinner, have a few drinks after their busy day or simply to relax with their four-legged friends and take their time to have a leisurely read the Sunday paper.”

Well done Darren and the team, you nailed it.