For The Scribblaire, the best pub award goes to The Sussex Arms, Staines Road, Twickenham. We ‘discovered’ the pub not long after it reopened after changing hands and a significant refurb. Twickenham has an abundance of pubs, so we had tried a number of our pretty good locals.
We’re not big pub-goers really, but do enjoy an occasional Sunday lunch and accompanying alcoholic beverage. Mostly we’re wine drinkers, but the quality and variety of beers, ciders and stout available in the Sussex Arms is too much to resist. The Sussex Arms is mentioned in CAMRA guides, and is a bona fide destination for real ale connoisseurs.
I’m fond of a blond, hoppy beer and the choices the knowledgeable staff provide are always on the money. Customers can sample any beer they fancy before deciding on their tipple and this can sometimes be a fairly long process, since there are usually lots to try. The beers are rotated regularly, so there’s rarely the same beer on offer. My favourite so far is a Saltaire ale which I’ve only seen once, but might come around again. The other half usually tries a stout or porter, often flavoured with coffee or chocolate or some such! I’m not sure I approve, but each to their own.
The food available at the Sussex Arms is a perfect complement to the beer and general ambience. The Sunday lunch is awesome, including the best roast pork dinner ever! They also offer a roast sandwich at a very reasonable price. The sandwich is packed full of whatever roast meat is selected, accompanied by a Yorkshire pudding, a couple of roast potatoes and a little jug of gravy. During the week there is a wider menu, but on Sunday only roast dinners are available, which means the chef can concentrate on putting out something really good. The home-made pies are delicious. I had steak and ale, which had just the right amount of very crisp shortcrust pastry and the perfect balance of meat and gravy in the pie. It’s a proper pie too, no bowl of meat with a puff pastry lid here! The accompanying chips were pretty good too, although some of our party had a colcannon mash which they claimed was equally good.
What makes the Sussex Arms stand out from other pubs for me is that they have no televisions, fruit machines, games tables or juke box blaring out. What they do have, however, is a collection of vinyl lined up on a shelf above the bar, just above a real turntable. Drinking in a lovely pub accompanied by the tones of Sam Cooke, Bob Marley or -as last Sunday, The Specials – is a joy!
The only downside of the Sussex Arms as far as The Scribblaire is concerned is the number of young families that pile into the pub on a Sunday, turning it into something of a crèche. In the summer, this isn’t really noticeable since the pub has a lovely big garden where the kids can run around without getting in anyone’s way. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think pubs are places for kids really, but obviously I’m in the minority and it’s hard to find anywhere not catering for families. I suppose that’s where the money is and it’s a fairly tough business to be in these days.
On a recent visit a group of fancy-dressed, pub-crawling twenty-somethings came in and were asked by the landlord whether they were meeting up with more people. When the party responded that this was the case, they were asked (very politely) to leave, since such a large group would impact the atmosphere of the pub for the locals. We both nodded in approval, and carried on with our pints …