Gullen’s Bar in Longridge Avenue, Saltdean
Weird in every way possible, you won’t visit many pubs that leave you feeling quite as depressed and lonely as Gullen’s Bar.
Like an old dog or an ageing leather armchair, someone has to love them, but you can’t help wondering why?
It looks like any other old shop front in Saltdean but Gullen’s must have been a café in a past life; in fact it pretty much still is. Somehow it survives as a weird hybrid, it’s as if a greasy spoon has had a dodgy night out with the worst six pack of supermarket lager you can imagine and they’ve both done something they’ll regret in the morning.
Storm Caroline might not have helped the situation but you can’t blame the bad weather for the atmosphere.
A long wooden bar sticks into the centre of the café and there are stools along two sides. The only drinks on draught are Fosters, Kronenbourg, Courage Best and Strongbow – for whatever reason I was the only person on the draught.
A small, wizened fellow by the name of John, at the front of the bar, was on rose wine and sat happily whistling or singing along to Heart Radio. His singing was bad, but his whistling much worse, particularly as the regularity of his belching meant he kept losing the tune completely.
It must have been catching as the only other punter also started belching loudly and even I began feeling a little windy.
At this point customers outnumbered the staff by three to two, but we were soon joined by Chris, who came in to tell us about the new house he’d bought. He’s particularly pleased with the deceptively large kitchen and the fact he managed to get the American-style freezer from the previous owners for £100. Mind you, even he avoided the draught and opted for a bottle of Becks.
When I’d first come in the fellow behind the bar, smartly dressed in a blue shirt and black waistcoat, had dropped a bottle of red wine and then spent a good ten minutes clearing up.
The more I watched him, the more he reminded me of Walter White from Breaking Bad.
A short conversation about the waxy nature of new ten pound notes and how easily they slip out of your hand then took place before another guy wandered in. He opted for bottled Budweiser but, for some unfathomable reason, was lucky enough to be handed £20 as soon as he walked in.
The rain outside turned to sleet but even that seemed inviting compared to sitting in here.
I decided I needed to try and be upbeat, so thinking I’d spotted another draught offering I went for a pint of Guinness. Sadly I was mistaken and a can was poured into a glass before being jiggled on one of those strange machines I thought died out a decade ago. Barmaid Julia took great care pouring it and it looked like Guinness, but flattered to deceive.
Walter and Julia both had a cuppa in Mister Men mugs – even they weren’t touching anything on draught.
A couple of women came in and ordered lunch, along with two glasses of water, but they were left waiting for their sausage, beans and chips as two guys in a Willow van then made a delivery.
I assume there’s no back entrance as all the boxes and kegs were wheeled in on trolleys through the front door. In any other pub such an interruption might be distracting, or even mildly annoying, but in Gullen’s it was welcome entertainment and lifted the spirit of the place. Not that the two guys were particularly jolly; in truth they moaned about the weather too, but at least they delivered some life into the place.
There are Spartan decorations with a bah humbug sign that doesn’t work, two Christmas cards have been put up there’s an apt picture of a penguin among the snowflakes.
One sign offers house spirit doubles for £3.25 but others warn children must be accompanied everywhere and dogs have to be on leads.
Pubs that opt not to have pool tables, dartboards, fruit machines or jukeboxes normally do so because they’re fantastically warm and welcoming places where people go to enjoy the craic – Gullen’s Bar isn’t normal.
This isn’t the worst bar I’ve visited, but it must be the most depressing. On the bright side, it looks so much like a shop there’s every chance you’ll walk straight past without even noticing it is a pub – good luck.
GULLEN’S BAR, LONGRIDGE AVENUE, SALTDEAN
It’s decorated like a café from the 1970s.
Hardly anything on tap and the locals avoid the draught offering like the plague.
£4.10 for a can of fizzed up Guinness.
The most enjoyable time was when two fairly fed up guys made a deliverys
They didn’t look any happier to be here than the customers.
Source: The Argus