Rating: **** Andy Richardson enjoys a taste of the Orient and a poshed-up Black Country delight.
There was a time earlier this year when it felt as though it was impossible to open a newspaper without reading about another new award for the Punchbowl Inn, on the outskirts of Bridgnorth.
The venue’s success was all the more remarkable in that it had been achieved against a backdrop of its worst ever season.
The heavy snow and floods of 2010 had caused a £150,000 loss – yet, within a year, the venue was being celebrated as being one of the UK’s best.
The turnaround was achieved through hard work and determination. Staff knuckled down to work 14 hours a day to cope with demand – after almost 6,000 locals booked dinners at the venue.
My friend and I were keen to find out what all of the fuss was about and so booked in for a midweek supper.
We had booked ahead and were greeted at the bar by a friendly member of staff who showed us to our table; a delightful room in which a log fire was blazing warmly.
The Punchbowl Inn was formerly a pub, though is now a dining pub. The tables are all set for guests who can feast on high quality, low cost dinners that are served in generous portions. The venue prides itself on serving pub classics and a carvery that has a region-wide reputation.
Every week, scores of people travel from around the region to enjoy simple, home-cooked food at affordable prices.
I, however, had a cunning plan. The Punchbowl prides itself on traditional English grub – so, to start, I went for a Chinese dish – chicken yuk sung, which comprised spicy chicken served with vermicelli noodles and soy sauce in baby gem lettuce. It was delicious, a winning blend of taste and texture. My friend went for a seasonal soup which was served in a generous portion and he was very pleased with it.
My friend opted for the carvery as his main course and returned to the table with a plate brimful of delicious savoury food. Pork, crackling, apple sauce, vegetables and potatoes were piled high – somehow, he made it through the lot. I went for faggots in a rich onion gravy with triple cooked chips and a red onion marmalade. All were delicious.
My friend skipped dessert, though I went for a bowl of pear crumble with custard, which proved a hearty end to a pleasant evening. Out bill, including drinks, was £35 – a total bargain.
Punchbowl owner Adam Giles deserves all credit for creating an increasingly-popular dining pub on the outskirts of Bridgnorth. The venue has bounced back in remarkable style from the most testing set of circumstances.
To go from being pretty much down and out to being one of the best venues of its type in the region takes a terrific amount of effort. Don’t expect fine dining, silver service or gastronomic fireworks. The Punchbowl is all about good local produce, seasonal ingredients and friendly, salt-of-the-earth staff. They provide better value for money than most restaurants and few leave disappointed.
The hard work of Adam and his team deserves every success.
Mini ham, egg and chips £4.95
Pigeon terrine £5.95
Crayfish bruschetta £4.95
Lasagne with fat chips and a mini dressed salad £7.95
Salmon supreme with cabbage and bacon, parmentier potatoes and a prawn butter sauce £11.95
Hobson’s Beer battered cod, with homemade marrowfat mushy peas and fat chips £9.95
Belgian waffle with popcorn ice cream and chocolate sauce £4.75
Raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake with Chantilly cream £4.75
Bramley apple crumble tart with caramel ripple ice cream £4.75
Good. Staff are down-to-earth and eager to please.
Warm and inviting. The Punchbowl Inn is a delightful pub that embodies the best of local hospitality.
Staff help, though the building has some obstacles which are inevitable, given its age.