The Maypole
<- The Maypole
Here I met up with landlord Mario Castiglione and his son Vincent; next year the family will celebrate 25 years at the pub, which is remarkable in these days of "revolving doors" licensees. The Maypole is that rarity in the city centre, a proper, traditional two-bar pub and therefore attracts a much more varied clientele than the multitude of nearby cafe-bars.

On the real ale front, Adnams Bitter is a fixture while a second pump alternates between Shepherd Neame Spitfire and Youngs Special (though the latter may become permanent). There are also one or two ever-changing guest beers chosen from the extensive Punch Finest Cask Selection which offers lots of interesting regional and micro brewery beers. I had a delicious Trafalgar ale from Gales on my visit. Vincent produces posters describing each of the guests in detail; he is convinced the booming ale sales are partly down to customers checking regularly to see which new delight has appeared.

The Maypole also has an excellent reputation for its home-made food. The menu features many Italian dishes, as you might expect, but these are supplemented with daily specials and a host of other offerings. The chef was previously at Midsummer House and, locally, you can't get a better pedigree than that. Food is served lunch and evenings and all day on Friday and Saturday.

Mario is a champion cocktail-maker and though he doesn't take part in as many competitions as he used to, he can still rustle you up something from a list running into the hundreds.

The building itself is inter-war, retaining many old features. The comfy, carpeted lounge has a curved bar and a nice mix of seating. The back room is very much in the traditional public-bar style. The patio outside has seating for up to 100 people and there's also an upstairs function room.

For no good reason, other than that the few activists find it difficult to keep tabs on every pub, The Maypole hasn't been given the credit it deserves by CAMRA in recent times. However, we can recommend it unreservedly.