THIS was my maiden trip to The Clannad in Victoria Street, St Albans, and I cannot say that my expectations were high. I've visited "Irish" pubs before and never found them to my liking.

Once inside, however, the place appeared remarkably English. I couldn't quite fathom why the rotting signs propped up out the back carrying the pub's former name The Acorn had ever been taken down.

Seeing three cask ales displayed also impressed me, and, having earlier in the day done some beer tasting for a feature back in the office, I decided upon a pint of the weakest Tetley's.

"I think you're out of luck, mate," I was told as a dismal dribble of froth emerged from the pump. So I agreed to settle for a Pedigree instead.

"Erm..," came the reply, as the same thing happened.

When the barman finally managed to pull me a pint of Young's Special, I was concerned that such a strong beer might make me rather too intoxicated. I needn't have been. It tasted so off that I could only manage to drink a quarter of it.

At least the place was clean and nicely kept, although the decor did puzzle me somewhat. Rustic style furniture and plain walls, with a few chrome American diner-style chairs and a scattering of modern art effect squares on the wall in one corner.

A Guinness poster on the ceiling inviting me to "Party like the Irish" added the token Irish touch, as did the toilet doors printed with "ladies" and "gents" in Gaelic as well as English. A huge TV screen was broadcasting Channel 4 News rather volubly, but having already seen the headlines at six, I escaped into the beer garden.