FOOD REVIEW: Nothing pretentious, just good, solid grub
HAVING lived in Cleethorpes for several years now, I thought I had exhausted pretty much all the eating establishments the resort had to offer.
One cold, grey Saturday afternoon in January, I realised I was wrong.
Having tried most of the pubs, cafés and restaurants in town, I racked my brains for somewhere new. A few minutes later came my Eureka moment. What about the Punch Bowl?
Located near the railway station on the north promenade, this established venue may only be a ten-minute walk along the seafront, but it feels well out of the way.
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We reach our destination and step out of the cold. It is after 1pm and things appear to be winding down after the lunchtime peak.
The room is dimly lit, the decor light but unremarkable and the atmosphere subdued.
A seat by the window affords stunning views across the Humber estuary, while muted TV screens replay the resignation of the leader of Ireland's ruling party on a 24-hour news channel.
Music from a local radio station plays in the background, punctuated every few minutes by the grating notes of the Looney Tunes jingle emanating from a toy machine.
The menu makes for impressive reading, with everything from traditional pub classics such as steak and kidney pie to grills, burgers, pizzas, fish and chips, and even a whole section of vegetarian dishes.
A walk up to the food counter reveals not so much a specials board as a specials wall, offering an array of even more meals.
Eventually, my friend and I settle on the combo for two (£7.25). This includes chicken wings, onion rings, crispy coated garlic mushrooms, coated king prawns and garlic bread, served with salad garnish and a selection of sauces.
The chicken wings are nicely seasoned and quite spicy, the garlic bread moist and moreish. It is as filling as a main course.
It's fair to say the Punch Bowl won't win any awards for food presentation – no pretentious patterns adorning sparsely populated plates here. Just good, solid grub piled up high.
In my case it is a hearty lasagne (£5.95) spread across my plate, competing for space with a mountain of thick-cut chips, garden peas and salad, which complemented the tender and tasty meat, the succulent cheese and tomato sauce perfectly. A very filling and satisfying dish.
My friend opts for the combo for one (£7.15), choosing the Cajun chicken breast and half-rack of ribs over the steak and pork chops.
The dish comes with plenty of sides, and my friend is impressed at being treated to salad and peas when so often he is forced to choose between the classic British vegetable and the more fashionable pleasures of a side salad.
The choice of potato dishes – between chips, jacket or mash – is an easier one to make. The chunky chips are plentiful and the Cajun chicken is perfectly cooked and just spicy enough. The meat on the ribs is tender and succulent, but the barbecue sauce leaves something to be desired.
A dessert proves beyond the capabilities of my friend – a sure sign satisfaction is guaranteed – but I ploughed on an ordered the apple pie (£2.50).
I am made to wait for it though, and when it finally emerges the waitress is refreshingly candid enough to admit she had completely forgotten about it. Served with large dollops of vanilla ice cream (you can have custard or cream if you prefer), the dish contains juicy chunks of apple encased in a crusty pastry base and is the perfect way to round off this veritable feast.
Overall, I found the Punch Bowl solid and unpretentious with a menu that other pubs in the area would struggle to match.
The service was friendly, if a little slow given it wasn't peak time, although the menu does warn the food can take a while as it is made to order.
The pub may feel out of the way, but it is certainly worth a visit. And after three courses of its generous fare, a postprandial walk along the prom is just what the doctor ordered.