DECOR **** (bold but not brash) DRINK **** (good range) PRICE **** (fairly priced) ATMOSPHERE **** (down to earth) STAFF ***** (charming) FOOD *** (disappointing alternative to burgers)

WITH my bloated stomach haemorrhaging from a solid week’s worth of gorging on vertiginous mountains of festive grub and my liver pickled after consuming the volume of the Dead Sea in booze, a passing glance at The Brockley Jack’s menu was enough to turn me into a vegan tee totaller.

Although the menu has changed several times since my last visit four years ago, the haunting memory of stuffing piles of meat down my throat like a foie gras goose was enough to make me think twice before ordering one of the pub’s notoriously generous burger dishes.

Apart from trying to avoid a triple heart bypass before finishing this paragraph, the thought of consuming more flesh in a bun than Gaga’s meat dress squeezed between J-Lo’s ample backside made my stomach lurch in horror.

The smoked haddock, spinach and cheese bake (£8.45) was therefore a much more appealing option.

As I sipped on my very reasonably priced pint of Abbot Ale (£2.80), my heart sank when the charming barman presented me with a meal the colour of R-Patz’s vampiric sun deprived butt cheeks.

If it is true you eat with your eyes, then first looks were not particularly delicious.

With just the accompanying petit pois providing a splash of green, the dish was largely a sea of yellow and beige.

Gulping, I plunged my fork into the bake which, while it tasted delicious, resembled more a runny mess than an appetising filler.

A mashed potato topping would have been sufficient to hold the creamy dish together.

Rounding off my visit with a glass of crisp and refreshing Santa Carolina Chardonnay (£2.95), I slumped in my chair and soaked up the Greene King owned boozer’s pleasingly relaxed atmosphere.

Dating from 1898, this large, imposing suburban roundhouse has a theatrical air about it, both inside and out.

It’s no surprise, therefore, it is home to the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, which stages an eclectic range of fringe drama and comedy.

And Jonathan Clarkson’s new adaptation of Washington Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is bringing a little gothic horror to the venue until Saturday.

Apparently the pub is named after an infamous 15th century highwayman, but despite its gastropub appearances, the Jack’s prices are thankfully far from daylight robbery.

Judging by the bold but classic decor, the manager is clearly a man of good taste and integrity.

It is refreshing to visit a boozer where reasonable prices have not been compromised by a touch of style and comfort.

And as we toast to the New Year, I challenge landlords across the News Shopper area to emulate this exquisitely welcoming pub.

If only every boozer was able to pull off this establishment’s finely balanced combination of character, class and charm.

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