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The Heart & Hand (Brighton)

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75 North Road / Brighton City Centre / Brighton BN1 / +44 (0) 1273 683320

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      24.11.2005 13:15
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      A no nonsense pub frequented by interesting clientele

      Tucked away down a side street off the main road leading down to the seafront from Brighton’s main railway station about half way between the station and the main shopping centre in Churchill Square, is a small local boozer ‘The Heart and Hand’. THE ATMOSPHERE In the 18 years I’ve been based in Brighton this pub, as always been a favourite amongst a younger more alternative crowd of pub goers I suppose when I started going there I could have been described as one of these younger (if only slightly alternative) pub goers! This is not your posh frock, smart Chinos and shirt type of pub, but more a spit and sawdust watering hole. Standing on a street corner halfway down North Street it is ideally placed for the centre of town and is used by many as a convenient meeting place for further late night revelling. It is a small building, one main room with about sitting space for 40 or so people, furnished with simple wooden tables, the wall at the far end of the pub is completely covered with poster from all the different clubs gigs and alternative bars that you can find in Brighton. The overall atmosphere is loud, raucous, smoky but friendly. In the summer weather permitting some tables are placed outside on the rather cramped pavement to provide some additional outdoor seating. During the day food is served, basic fare sandwiches, cold salads and the clientele is mainly made up of office workers from nearby business or off duty postmen from the nearby Brighton main post office. A few years ago they decided to expand the food side of things by sacrificing some of the seated area to introduce a food counter, maybe in an attempt to regain some custom lost to the growing number of gastro-pubs in the are, but I don’t think the changes suited the place and the area was reconverted to setting after a while. You really go the ‘Heart and Hand’ to have a drink and socialise rather than have a gourmet meal. If the proposed changes to smoking in public areas go through and places selling food will ban smoking this might change of course. In the evening the pub undergoes a transformation and becomes like a surreal auditioning room for a version of Brit-Pop idol. Many strange haircuts can be seen and some decidedly second hand retro studenty fashion. However the pub is not solely frequented by would be Brit Pop and alternative rock fans often you can see the real thing. I personally have seen Gaz from Supergrass drinking here on occasion as well as some of the members of the now defunct James. I’ve also had one memorable if slightly boozy conversation about the merits of not overproducing music with the original producer of ‘Brimful of Asha’ the Corner Shop hit from a few years back. The ‘Heart in Hand’ has been run for years by Bert and Jo the husband and wife team of experienced publicans that manage to create a comfortable atmosphere, which is appreciated by a diverse type of clientele. They are very welcoming and you feel that even younger more bohemian clientele have a great respect for the way the place is run. Even on your first visit to the pub you get the feeling that you’ve just stepped into yours and not somebody else’s local. SEX, DRUGS AND ROCK AND ROLL The best thing about this pub is the antiquated juke box in the corner just before the loos. It’s an old type jukebox with the 7inch vinyl singles still visible, automatically selected and played before you very eyes. The selection of music seems to stop somewhere in the mid 80’s but includes some classic 50’s 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s singles covering blues, rock, punk and New wave. You can find some quite usual recording here varying from the likes of Love, MC5, Neil Young and The Fall. The music has that scratched hissy quality that makes you (if you are old enough) feel nostalgic for those halcyon pre-cd days when musical content took precedence over flashy production. The cost of each play is great value at 20p for one record or 7 for £1.00. Drugs and sex might be harder to find but the bar usually serves a good selection of drinks ranging from standard lager Stella etc. to real ales, usually Flowers, IPA or the locally brewed Harvey’s Best Bitter, Guinness as well as the usual selection of alco-pops and spirits. For a pub that is so close to the centre of town all the drinks are very reasonably priced. The ‘Heart and Hand’ is the kind of pub that has suffered over the last few years with the rise of the bigger pub chains and the theme pubs as well as the creation of more and more overpriced gastro-pubs. The fact that this pub is still surviving and striving in such a rapidly changing market is down to its resolute stand on not succumbing to the fads and fashions that periodically hit the pub industry. Its décor is rather old fashioned and it the pub doesn’t set out to be trendy but paradoxically it’s been adopted both by a young and trendy (in a crusty studenty kind of way) clientele and a more traditional no nonsense drinker. It has found unwittingly found a niche in the market, which it is filling very well. It can get very busy on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays but does tends to empty out at 10.30 when most of the younger patrons troop off to the many clubs in town, this of course may change with the new licensing laws. Me I’ll stay to the end getting my money’s worth on the juke box and trying to work out how much I owe the babysitter when I get back home (too old to Rock and Roll too young to die!) © Mauri 2005

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      The Heart & Hand is a small pub with a good atmosphere and a popular juke box of old 45's from the Sixties.