Pub of the Week
With its striking glazed green tile frontage, the Punchbowl is a fine example of a pub dating back to a golden era when Old Market had its own cinema and theatre in the shape of The Empire – a 2,500-seat venue where Cary Grant worked as a boy before finding fame and fortune in Hollywood.
A stretch of road boasting a range of handsome buildings dating from the 17th to 20th centuries, Old Market was a thriving place for shops and businesses until the creation of Broadmead shopping centre in the 1950s. Since then, it has gone through periods of neglect but in recent years there has been a determined effort to regenerate the area.
A short walk from Cabot Circus and also handy for Temple Meads, the Punchbowl is now one of those pubs that appeals to a broad cross-section of customers at different times of the day.
At lunchtime, its new and well-priced food menu attracts local office workers with a selection of traditional pub meals, jacket potatoes and sandwiches – many around the £3 mark.
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At weekends, the pub appeals to a different clientele with a mix of local drinkers and people visiting the area for the clubs and bars around Old Market.
Prices are reasonable and real ale drinkers have a choice of Doom Bar, Cornish Coaster and Wells Bombardier, while cider drinkers can order Thatchers or cans of Natch.
On Sundays, the £6 roasts are gaining a regular following since the new landlord took over, and there is often live music and karaoke on Saturdays.
Another new addition has been additional flat screen TVs for live sports and on the evening I visited there were a few drinkers crowded around the bar to watch the live boxing.
Next to them was a small group of drinkers discussing how many times they had seen various heavy metal acts in concert – including AC/DC, who were blaring out of the speakers above my head.
On the table next to me, a group of locals were having a heated debate about pensions and the benefits system, all of which made for a lively atmosphere.
On a sub-zero Saturday evening, the pub was doing a brisk trade and although some of the language was at times as colourful as the vintage French prints on the walls, it is certainly a pub with plenty of character and a friendly welcome.