A nice short post to help me clear some more backlog and my conscience.
The good folk in the Sussex Arms, Tunbridge Wells, are probably wondering where their write-up is, given they’ve been following my Tweets since a visit that seems like decades ago. Rubbish blog management is the answer. In fact, it was only the fact the Mario picture kept popping up that prompted this post.
This was, apparently, one of Mrs RM’s favourites when she used to tear up the town of a Friday night, so why it’s taken so long to get in the Beer Guide is inexplicable.
More to the point, I’d never seen it before when pottering around the Pantiles, so the What Pub description of hidden gem is unusually accurate.
The other pubs round here include the excellent but upmarket Ragged Trousers, the craft-driven Pantiles Tap, and a foody Fullers (aren’t they all). In a nutshell, the Sussex felt the best all-rounder of the lot.
A good mix of punters, a good mix of beers included Old Dairy (NBSS 3.5) and Long Man, as well as three you’ll recognise.
A choice of straight glass or handle (that’s not a choice), a choice of seating on different levels, and no choice of music. But it was Low’s melancholy Ones and Sixes, which is good enough for me. And clearly good enough for the barman, the cheeriest in Tunbridge Wells.
There you go, a 20 minute post.
3 thoughts on “PANTILES PERFECTION”
As promised Martin, here are my thoughts on the Sussex Arms. I don’t know how my recollections compare with those of Mrs RM, but I’ve got mixed feelings about the pub. This is only because I remember it from when I first moved to the area, during the mid-1980’s, and what it was like then, and what it is like now, are almost polar opposites.
In 1984, when I first set foot in the Sussex, it was run by legendary landlord Dennis Lane and his wife Barbara. During their time there, they had furnished the pub with bric-a-brac purchased from the nearby auction rooms. There was a collection of chamber pots, along with a Willow Patterned W.C. high on the shelf, plus an old Cuckoo Clock. It was also rumoured that there were 27 locks on the front door. This was at a time when collecting such things was looked on as eccentricity, rather than a clumsy attempt to make a pub appear old by creating a faux Victorian look.
The Sussex had a small snug bar, plus a larger main bar, which was heated in winter by a roaring log fire. Harvey’s PA, plus XXXX Old Ale in winter, were the beers available and apparently Dortmunder Union lager was also available. (I do vaguely remember a sign, or even a font on the bar, advertising this). There was also, at times, quite a whiff of “whacky-baccy” which, as can be imagined, attracted the attention of the local constabulary.
The unique character of the Sussex Arms was lost when Dennis and Barbara retired in 1987, after nearly three decades running the pub. This was around the time when a major re-development of the Pantiles area was taking place. The local authority had entrusted a property company to carry out the work, and what they came up with was an upmarket refurbishment which amounted to “gentrification”. With the redevelopment work going on all around them, the Lanes decided to call it a day, and sold up in the autumn of 1987.
According to rumours at the time, a real pub run by, and used by real characters, did not fit into these plans, but with Dennis and Barbara gone, and the pub sold the new owners completely gutted it, and converted it into a pub aimed at the youth market. Plans for it to brew its own beer came to nothing, and eventually it was sold to Greene King. The area immediately surrounding the pub was opened up, and it is now no longer quite so “tucked away” as it once was.
Since its conversion, a quarter of a century ago, the Sussex Arms has mellowed nicely
and, as you discovered, is now a pleasant and popular town pub. It is managed by the same people who run the Ragged Trousers, and the George. The latter is a lovely old pub at the top of the town, opposite the site of the former Kent & Sussex Hospital. I am fairly certain it will feature in next year’s Guide.
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Never really liked those dimpled glasses with the handles. Never understood why some people have their own tankard behind the bar. The beer always tastes a bit strange to me out of a tankard, especially a pewter one, despite what Orwell says. Which drives me back to the argument about having the correct glass for the right beer. Yes, yes and yes. Granted there are many beer styles and matching glasses, but hand pulled bitter beer in a British pub should come in a plain schooner, sleever, Nonic, or generally conically shaped glass, whatever you want to call them, and nothing else.
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What a clever man you are, particularly in light of the disadvantages of your birthplace.
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