THINGS aren’t always what they seem. There’s often a clear distinction between restaurant food and pub grub, so if you visit a country pub and enjoy high quality cuisine, it’s a pleasant surprise.
The award-winning Punchbowl at Churchtown, has a reputation for excellent hospitality, fantastic food and friendly dining. Arguably, it’s a restaurant in a pub guise. Set in a charming, tranquil Fylde village it has still a few regulars who call in for a pint and a chat, but in the main attracts diners who appreciate the ambience, service and culinary delights of this interesting old hostelry. Tasteful decor, soft lighting, etched and stained glass features, effect a blend of traditional and modern design. Locally sourced produce is prepared by a creative, award-winning chef, who clearly takes pride in his profession. A smiling, attentive young team can’t do enough to please. There was quite a wait for our first course, and, happily, complimentary hot crusty rolls and butter were brought to our table. All praises to my starter, a piping hot pea and mint risotto singing with fragrant, fresh spring flavours. Artistically presented, it was complemented with a honeycomb-textured parmesan crisp and garlic crostini. Across the table the tasty home-made leek and potato soup was declared delicately flavoured and satisfying. My partner’s choice, beef stroganoff, prompted our old friend, food envy to invade my space. The dish showcased strips of tender steak sauteed with onion and mushrooms in the classic, creamy sauce, served with perfectly cooked, fluffy white rice. I selected the Dewlay four-cheese pie. Covered with a light, flaky pastry, the filling was almost fondue-like in texture. A dieter’s nightmare but a foodie’s fantasy indeed with a rich, garlicky blend of cheeses, mixed with parmentier potatoes and served with a red onion marmalade. So filling, I could barely manage a bite of the accompanying fresh vegetable platter. There was another long wait before our desserts arrived. Given the portion size here, it gave us chance to catch our breath and prepare for the pudding challenge. Mine took the gold medal. An individual, circular Bramley apple and blackberry pie was so different, so appealing, so innovative, crammed with luscious English fruits. My partner’s rhubarb and pear fused tart sweetness with a light, brown-sugar and Madagascan cinnamon-covered crunchy topping. The vanilla Walling’s ice cream was the veritable icing on the crumble. The bill came to £48.65 to include half of lager and a white wine spritzer. Not cheap but worth every penny.
Name: The Punchbowl
Address: Church Street, Churchtown, near Garstang
Phone: (01995) 603360
Opening times: Monday-Friday 12noon-2.30pm, 5.30pm-9pm; Saturday 12noon-9pm; Sunday 12noon-8pm
Disabled access: Yes
Worth a visit for: Heavenly apple and blackberry pie
One thing I’d change: Speed up the service a little