Reading this blog, and others like it (For We Are Legion), you may be forgiven for being under the impression that London is stuffed full of buzzy gastropubs, exciting ethnic grills and gleaming temples of gastronomy, and finding somewhere good to eat requires little to no effort at all. Sadly, although things have certainly improved in the last 10-15 years, crap restaurants are still very much a feature. I've ranted about Angus Steakhouses at length before, but there's still no excuse for them, or Bella Pasta, or All Bar One, or any of the other chain pubs and restaurants that blight our city. Once you've been to your local Slug & Lettuce and paid £8 for a horrible "vegetarian dipping platter" it becomes all too obvious why it's so difficult to get a table at the Anchor & Hope.
That said, there's a part of me that realises that many gastropubs, with their fancy Mediterranean ingredients and hawing clientele, aren't for everyone. Some are more elitist than others, certainly - I've always found the Eagle on Farringdon Road to be very accessible, whereas the Swan on Fetter Lane is basically a restaurant in a pub - but surely there's room for just a normal, cosy little boozer which serves decent food for people who quite rightly consider paying £15 for bangers and mash a bit too much? Step forward, the Punch Tavern, on Fleet Street.
Newly refurbished and relaunched, with a chef of refreshingly humble origins and a menu of heart-warmingly familiar British dishes, the Punch Tavern is a beautiful old building that very much deserved the attention. I was invited to lunch with a couple of other bloggers to try out their new menu, and got stuck in right away to a pint of Summer Lightning bitter and a plate of devilled chicken livers on toast.
For your £4.50 you get an impressively generous mound of what is admittedly a budget cut of offal, with a marvellously rich sauce. Not very "devilled" perhaps - could have done with a bit more of the hot stuff - but no major complaints.
My main course of duck roast was similarly generous for the measly £8.50 price point. A nice moist duck quarter, with creamed leeks and a good selection of roasted vegetables, my only complaint was with the soggy, greasy Yorkshire pud. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - if you can't do a proper Yorkshire pudding (and as far as I know, nobody in London can), then don't even try. There's a whole generation of people who have grown up believing a Yorkshire pud is a tiny cupcake-sized pillow of pastry, instead of the 15" square behemoths filled with gravy my gran used to serve as a starter. And it makes me sad.
Anyway, that aside, I can really recommend the Punch, and not just because I wasn't paying on this occasion. It's a friendly and accessible little boozer trying to serve fresh, hearty food without any pretensions towards trendy fads or eye-watering central-London tourist prices. It deserves to do very well.
Apologies for the lack of pictures - normal service will be resumed shortly