Sunday, 20 February 2011
Paper towels add to that, as do the six hand pumps taking pride of place on the clean, well-tended bar. My barmaid doesn't appear all that au fait with the stock - these are light, those are darker, she says - but it doesn't matter as I spy a Yorkshire Terrier, which I know fairly well.
Wonder where the party is, she says, looking around the sparsely attended lounge. It's not here, I reply. But it is, soon enough, as the pub fills gradually but surely with an odd but ostensibly friendly mix of locals. From large, gruff fisherman types to younger, aspiring Eastbourners with garish T-shirts, there is a good cross-section of Seaford society rubbing shoulders easily.
As for the beer, it's outstanding. Yorkshire Terrier is exactly how I remember: yappy and snappy as its name suggests. The one beef I really have with this place is the restaurant to the right of the lounge bar. Fumes from the griddle billow straight through into the rest of the pub, but this could be overcome by simply closing the door. Locals nickname this place The Wellie, but for me it'll forever be known as the Smelly until they sort this issue out.
In all honesty, the decor's a mite upmarket for my liking. OK for a lounge or reading room; less so for a pub. I imagined it would be more rustic and am crestfallen when it's not. There are some nice touches, though, including a fake brass plaque on the fireplace, which reads: In memory of Graham 'Wiggy' Haynes, who tended this fire and brought warmth to this pub. Sadly missed by all his friends. I've added the punctuation for clarity's sake, but it's a warming presence all the same.
Next up I try a Springhead Robin Hood ale, which has a whiff of something approaching sour milk. It suffers from tasting like a cross between sour Tutti Fruttis and dentists' waiting rooms. Or even perhaps that stuff they use for taking bite impressions. All this is made worse by the sickening stench of burning pork chops wafting through from the grill. Or are they lamb? I'm afraid I'm unqualified to tell.
Returning from the loo, I find a note has been placed on my table informing me it and the chairs are to be cleared at around 11pm for the midnight session of dancing to classics from the 70's, 80's and 90's [sic]. At this, I decide to change horses mid-stream and opt for a Hardy's & Hanson's Olde Trip.
It's a fuller, maltier affair that has smoothness plastered all over its face and slips down like a pensioner in the big freeze of '63. I can't really smell much due to the now overwhelming stench of charring meats, but the flavour is that of a bruising premium bitter brewed to warm the cockles of sea-chilled old salts' hearts after a long, fruitless trawl or our oceans for fruits-de-mer.
Last knock-ins is Coach House Brewing Company Dick Turpin, a copper sunset-coloured ale that again smells of nothing but fried food, but tastes immediately like liquid Soreen malt loaf. It's as chewy as well. Something in it is making my saliva glands work overtime and my tongue grind against my teeth like an over-enthusiastic teenage smoocher works his way into his inamorata's body at a nite club. Perhaps unwelcomely.
What I can't work out is why they have faux-velvet ropes of crimson on clearly not gold stands outside the main entrance. Maybe they're intended to make the place look classier to deter Seaford's undesireables? The sculpted conifers in vase-like pots don't help much either. It doesn't add up.
The disco lighting and speakers speak volumes too. Of a place that doesn't really know its identity. It feels like a pub, acts like a bar and wants to be a night club. I write this from the soon-to-be-cleared dancefloor.
Maybe that's what Seaford demands? In truth, it's not even a one-horse town and the catchment area is tiny, so it's possibly entirely necessary to have such a catch-all establishment. To a London lad, it just looks caught between several stools and confused. But this is churlish. Overall, I think I'll be back in here. Apart from the 'heavily hopped' (read: foul) Robin Hood, the beers have been brilliantly served and kept. The Wellington's Cask Marque is fully deserved. The ambiance, while rendered a bit sterile by the new paintwork and varnished woods, is amicable enough.
I've enjoyed good beer, banter and had no hassle at all, so complaint is just inappropriate. I just wish they'd shut the ruddy restaurant door.