In a truly sensational climax to this year's truly sensational search for the best pub in the world, the winner has been announced. In a shock decision the judges named one of last year's runners up as the new Nationwide Best Pub in the World.
Taking over from the French House in Dean St, Soho, London, is the Hand in Hand Kemptown, Brighton, some 60 miles further south but still in the general direction of France. Last year's co-judge, Monty the Dog, was unable to participate this year due to a fight with a cat but the assembled team of Nationwide acolytes proved their mettle in a series of rigorous tests.
"The Hand got it for a number of reasons" said Barak, the jury spokesman, "First off, it's fucking tiny and nobody's ever heard of it. Secondly, it's got the most fucking bizarre decor you've ever seen. Blokes ties on the ceiling, a flying pig, the walls covered in some ancient newspaper shit.
But last and not least are the gents bogs. They've been cleaned."
Pamela, the token chick on the panel, agreed. "Those bogs used to stink like fury. Made me want to chuck up all over Tommy's lap. But Bill, one of the regulars, used to stroke my head a little and make me feel better. He's quite a guy."
The range of drinks available in the Hand has ebbed and flowed. The original landlord, the late great Bev, kept a steady supply of real ales flowing from the upstairs brewery ("Brighton's Oldest" "The Nation's Smallest" etc) and that tradition has been continued by ditching the real ale from upstairs and replacing it with guest beers, summer ales, bottles of wine, cocktails for fuck's sake, and, er, lager.
Kemptown's rise from obscurity is being charted by the national press but the Hand's new found status (Best Pub in the World 2008) is down to two guys who inhabit the tiny space behind the bar. (except when they step outside for a fag or slouch upstairs for a snooze).
Matt and Dai have transformed the fortunes of this pint-sized oasis through the medium of music. From Dai's eclectic itunes collection (unheard of sub-dance post-modern-thrash to whole uninterrupted albums of Smokey Robinsoin and Lou Reed) to Matt's more eloquent and eclectic tastes.(we don't know, we couldn't see the labels). Plus some blokes who occasionally stagger in and sing.
Sunday nights are a treat, and if I knew how to upload my illegally recorded mobile phone footage of free form jazz performed by students, buskers and blokes with pocket trumpets, I'd show you. But you'll have to take my word for it. And guess what that word is
They serve food too. Saturday and Sunday mornings were a major hit with early breakfasts but since they couldn't be arsed doing that any more that's a thing of the past. Wednesdays are rumoured to be a forthcoming curry night, and pasties have been on the menu, but most importantly of all, pickled eggs have returned to behind the bar. Apparently by a customer who went down the cash and carry and bought a jar.