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Previous Pint Pleasures - March 20, 2000

guinness eileen

The Six Bells, Lyminster Road, Lyminster, West Sussex

I apologize for this column being a week late, but I've been extremely busy. Life has been a little too real lately, so I'd like to take a break with a review of an unreal pub. The Six Bells, a former coaching inn located on the A284 near Arundel, is a deceptive place in all respects. When you first enter it seems like a pub; it's a tiny old inn with low beamed ceilings and two or three bar stools pushed up against an extremely hard-to-get-up-to bar. On one side is a nice big inglenook fireplace where mysterious wooden pegs of no obvious function are embedded in the bricks above the fire. When we stopped in during a weekend lunchtime the place was bustling with locals eating traditional pub lunches, and there wasn't enough room to swing a cat, much less six bells.

But here's where the deception starts: whereas the idea of "locals" in a country pub brings to mind farmers, sailors, artists, and other hands-on workers thirsty for a pint after a hard morning of work, these "locals" were mostly in suits. In fact, I'm surprised I didn't hear a constant chorus of mobile phones while we were there; seeing as how 40% of the British population own mobile phones, you'd think in a place full of suits the percentage would be more like 70%. Perhaps, like the Clarendon Inn in Sandgate, this is a Mobile-Free Zone.

The next deception was the "homemade" lunch menu, a massive publication which proudly promoted dishes such as prawns, homemade paté, chicken and steak pies, sweet and sour pork, ribeye steak, gourmet sandwiches, deep fried scampi tails, and cappuccino and espresso; and the specials board listed moules marinière, giant sesame panini with Cajun chicken, minted lamb, spicy Szechuan chicken, and a few hundred other dishes from all corners of the earth. But just how many different dishes can one tiny pub create in a day from scratch, i.e. "homemade"? How could they possibly do it? Aren't most of these dishes pre-prepared, negating the idea of homemade? What? Oh, but wait -- there's a huge wine list and even another menu, the bar menu. It describes some nice-looking items but they're a bit on the pricy side -- and I doubt very much they're truly homemade.

And then there were our pints of Young's Special Bitter (4.6%, Young & Co. Brewery, Wandsworth, London), served in modern-looking straight pint glasses. Although a bit cool this was a nice, bitter, flavourful relief from a long drive, my pint a thankful follower to a most unpleasant sandwich eaten in the car on the way. "Gourmet Express" was the brand name, I believe, and my cheese, tomato, and lettuce sandwich had been soggy with crunchy tomatoes, onions like soggy iceberg lettuce, and Andrew's sausage sandwich was like cardboard. I suppose we should have eaten at the Six Bells after all...

So what, you may think, could be deceptive about the beer? Well, for starters there are the deceptive "hand pumps": they dispensed a smooth flow head on our pints with a blanket breather, and we could easily detect the CO2 in our Young's. So why put on this charade -- why not use regular smooth-flow taps? At this point, just who does the Six Bells think it's fooling? I mean, is this a pub, a restaurant, a wine bar, or just a complete deception? Does it even exist? Am I really sitting in this little wooden chair? Is this little table really seasoned, or is it brand new? Could it be made of "aged, weathered wood" formica, perhaps? Was this ancient pub erected from the ground last spring? Is this country area really a small wilderness park surrounded by a sprawling metropolis? Is Rod Serling narrating this episode?

Oh, what to believe, what to believe... I'll bet even those dowager's humps the couple next to us are sporting are simply prosthetic dowager's humps...