Review: The Punch Bowl Inn, Battisford
- Credit: Su Anderson
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis finds community spirit thrives at Battisford’s Punch Bowl Inn
The Punch Bowl Inn is such a great example of community spirit. A few years ago it was closed, leaving the village of Battisford without a local.
But, determined to revive the heart of the community, villagers came together to create a Community Interest Company in 2011 – and the place has gone from strength to strength.
Today Luke Rainbird manages the pub, supported by up to a dozen volunteers who donate time working in the business – and on the building, with residents coming out in force to help paint and redecorate the interior recently.
Luke says the Punch Bowl really has become the beating heart of Battisford again.
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There are themed nights once a month. A thriving darts team is in operation. The main dining room has hosted local am dram. And the pub even hosted an afternoon for toddlers recently, with a film and popcorn.
Having wound our way from Hadleigh along the dark back roads to Battisford (where there were lots of deer, so be careful) we were pleased to find the Punch Bowl a really welcoming place this week.
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Despite it being a Wednesday night the pub was buzzing with guests, many of them from the village, and we were both impressed by the new interior.
The team behind it have managed to keep that Suffolk pub feel, adding chic country style with neat, pastel-coloured ginghams, vintage objects and a smart lick of heritage paint.
Sometimes, in this kind of place, there is an “are you local?” vibe.
I can’t count the times we’ve walked into small village pubs (and this is in many places across the UK) only to create a hushed silence as the regulars give us the eye.
But there was none of that nonsense here. Everyone was so friendly and smiling and I even got a recommendation from a lovely lady by the blackboard.
At the bar there were some interesting beers, including Essex-brewed Bishop Nick which we’d not heard of before. Hubby Jarv was very happy with his pint of the brewer’s Ridley’s Rite. In fact, he had to have a couple of glasses…just to be sure, of course.
Chef Emmanuel (known as Manny) loves his blackboard, and this is where he tends to hone his French flair, keeping the main menu full of classic favourites that the whole family can enjoy.
On the board this week were barramundi, salmon ravioli and homemade mushroom soup, among others.
Dishes on the main menu ranged from mussels in a curry cream sauce, to handcut steak with the trimmings, fish and chips, local sausages with mash, and curry of the day (prawn when we visited).
We were steered by the aforementioned nice lady at the blackboard towards the special starters of duo of smoked trout, and scallops and king prawns flamed in pastis with garlic butter.
Both arrived as pretty decent portions – big enough for a light lunch perhaps.
The two smoked trout fillets were light and meaty and not too oaky. With them was a fresh, colourful salad and slices of potato – a nice touch. This was a good, filling dish, although some of the bits of potato were a little under (which chef apologised profusely for).
A big buttery bowl of king prawns and scallops was lovely, especially with the addition of a whole prawn to peel – because those really are the best.
The shellfish were cooked just right and it was a truly succulent starter. It lacked a teensy bit of seasoning but with a sprinkle of salt and squeeze of the lemon provided, it was finger licking good (I have to say I was a good girl though and used the finger bowl!).
Onto the main courses and having sampled the seafood specials, we were on a meaty mission.
Jarv tucked into the homemade pie of the day, for which he was told there’d be a bit of a wait.
It wasn’t long though, before the excellently made pie came out to the table. Thick, proper shortcrust pastry surrounded melting chunks of prime beef, bound in a beefy, beer-scented gravy. It was served with creamy mustard mash and a huge dish of broccoli and Mediterranean-style vegetables, which was just superb value for only £10.75!
The pie came with a zippy, fruity white wine gravy as well, which was on the lighter side of rich, making it the perfect pairing for the dish.
On my side of the table was the day’s special of confit duck.
I did wonder, as I was presented with my plate, how on earth I was going to get through it all!
There was a basket of lovely herby crispy potatoes. A fresh salad with roasted peppers. And, the cherry on top, two (yes two) confit duck legs.
They were just as they should be. Crisp-skinned. Flavoured with the curing salts and fat and herbs of the confit process. And melting within.
I really could have done with a doggy bag, because in bed at midnight, as I put down my latest read to turn off the light, I could have probably managed a nibble on the remains of the second leg.
The only thing I would say is the plate could have done with a sauce. Although, haven eaten confit duck all over France, I can say they don’t tend to bother.
With a drop of Jarv’s gravy I was quite happy. Perhaps if you ask Chef, he’ll send one out for you – he did seem like a nice chap.
To finish we chose a couple of slices of cake from the dessert menu. Luke advised that, as Manny doesn’t tend to work at the beginning of the week (he does need a break after all) homemade puddings are fewer at this time – while from Thursday onwards, three quarters of the dessert menu is homemade.
The warm chocolate fudge cake and coffee and walnut cake we were served were nice enough though and, to be honest, we probably didn’t even need pudding after the gigantic feast that preceded it.
Jarv even struggled to finish his beer – and that’s quite something for him.
Would we go back to The Punch Bowl? For sure. All the staff and the locals seemed genuinely friendly and happy. It’s really rather nice inside. And the food hit the spot for two hungry, work-frazzled folk who needed sustenance.
They also offer lots of options for children (basically whatever they want said Manny) so we would definitely return with the mini Jarvis’ in tow – especially in the summer when the new patio has been laid in the garden.
The Punch Bowl Inn, Bowl Road, Battisford near Stowmarket.
Call 01449 771646.