[Crosthwaite, Cumbria] Punchbowl

We’ve been to lunch a couple of times over the years but, I think, this was the first time we’d been for dinner. It’s a classic village pub, right next to the parish church. And it’s not easy to get to from near Bowness where we were staying. The sat nav took us mainly down single track roads. I was a nervous wreck when we got there but they make you welcome and the stress quickly lifted. Not least as one of the staff told us a longer but easier route back to the hotel (where he used to work).

The menu is very much dining pub food. It plays to local Cumbrian ingredients but not slavishly so.

So, there’s twice baked cheese soufflé, sitting on a bed of caramelised onions. And when did cheese and onion not work. The other starter was the almost ubiquitous ham hock terrine. This was a good version and, thankfully, not fridge cold, as often the case. It came with a slice of toasted brioche and a spoonful of a tangy homemade piccalilli.

For mains, sea bass was perfectly cooked, right down to the crispy skin. It came with lightly cooked spring onions, mangetout and almost raw green beans (didn’t that go out of fashion in the Noughties?), with a scattering of new potatoes. Lamb loin was also spot on at medium rare. And there’s a little long cooked lamb which was equally but differently delicious. There’s a rectangle of crisp potato rosti, a few cubes of turnip, turnip puree and thin slices of radish for a bit of crunch. Good sauce.

Deseerts are something we pass on quite often but there was still a corner to be filled. Lemon tart had excellent crisp pastry with a good citrus hit in the filling. Alongside, a lovely damson sorbet – well, they are in the major growing area of the Lyth Valley. The other was a classic bit of French patisserie – Gateuax Opera. Layers of light sponge, interleaved with layers of chocolate. It’s rich and also needed the tangy fruit sorbet to cut through

Service was cheery and efficient which is all you want with a pub dinner.


Sounds much more spiffy than our American pub meals.


I take the view that British pub food falls into one of three broad categories.

There’s the full-on gastropubs - more restaurant than pub, soem with chefs you might have heard of. Then there’s “dining pubs” - proper pubs where someone might go for a few pints, but they major on food (often with a dining room separate from the drinking bar). Then there’s “pub food” pubs - often the major chains, doing basic grills and the like or bought in from the catering wholesaler. Thankfully, the dining pubs are on the increase.