I was in the Punchbowl last night, on Crookes here in sunny Sheffield. It reopens to the public on Saturday but in the meantime people were invited to try out the free food last night, and some to the VIP event tonight. This is the work of Andy Stephens and his Reet Ale Pubs company here in Sheffield. They took on the Punchbowl on Bank Holiday Monday and have refurbished it in under three weeks. So what is it like?
Well, the first thing is, its size. The three pubs already run by Andrew Inns, which is what I call them, are quite small in comparison - the Rutland is largest in terms of building size, but the seating areas are virtually the same - the Punchbowl is much larger. There are three different seating areas, one near the pizza oven, one on the left, and one split area near the back.
The pub is set out in a mix of traditional and modern styles - as a lover of pub architecture, I don't mind what has been done - the bar remains in the same place and following extensive brutal and clumsy remodeling previously, nothing remains of the 1930's roadhouse design other than the frontage. The bar has a simple tile floor in front of it and to the right is the pizza oven and preparation section - near this is further seating and, I understand, the opportunity to watch the pizzas being made. The raised section at the back is plain but comfortable and there are views from here over Sheffield. The rest of the furniture is a mix of high and low tables and chairs.
The food menu is mostly pizzas - and as last night was a free tasting night me and Tash had one each. She had Yorkshire Goats Cheese with beetroot and mushrooms and olives, and I had the pulled pork in cider pizza. It was, I have to say, delicious - I would happily pay £9.95 to eat that any day of the week. As long as that day was at the beginning of the month of course...
Beer wise there are 8 handpumps and 5 keg lines. There are also a number of interesting bottled ales from Kernel and Mikkeller and others. Last night I started on a pint of Shankar IPA from Great Heck, whilst Tash had the excellent Blue Bee Ginger Beer - after this, we both moved on to having pints of that. This was followed by a pint each of the Magic Rock Grapefruit High Wire on keg. Its 5.5% and £4.50 a pint - so basically a pound more than on cask. Which is what I would expect. We finished on a half of the excellent, hoppy, Shankar to share between us.
It will be interesting to see what the regulars make of the pub. It had a very long and sorry period as a Mr Q's. during which time I never went in, and then reopened following a refurbishment as a slightly more traditional pub with a couple of real ales. Tash thought it was a brave move - opening a pub relying so strongly on its pizza, across the road from a pizza shop, but that doesn't sell real ale and is fr take out. I don't think they will compete with each other (and I suspect the Punchbowl pizzas are better...?).
The pub also forms part of a slightly longer Crookes Valley Crawl - encompassing the Closed Shop, and depending on the route you take, potentially finishing at the Three Tuns.
Tonight is a VIP night by invite only and the pub reopens to the public fully on Saturday. I don't know if they have a website or FB page yet but am sure one will appear soon. Meanwhile, I wish Andy and his staff all the best for their latest pub venture in Sheffield.