Saturday saw us travel up to darkest North Yorkshire with friends Jon and Sam for a long awaited and well overdue dinner date.
Jon had booked the restaurant and so it was a lovely surprise when we found out we were heading for Ye Olde Punch Bowl Inn – the pub co-owned by Neil Morrisey of ‘Men behaving badly’ fame. We’d seen the TV series featuring their purchase of the pub, its conversion and home made beer exploits. A perfect evening you would think. Well, think again.
First impressions of the pub are fantastic – situated at the heart of the lovely village Marton cum Grafton, good parking and the inside has been beautifully refurbished – kind of a combination of urban cool and country pub. The first round of drinks were bought and Jon and I had a pint of the Morrisey Fox Best Bitter, which I have to say was spot on. Light, hoppy and quite fruity. Fantastic we thought. But it went down hill, fast.
When presented with the menus we were told they’d run out of fish and chips and there was only a couple of portions left of some other dishes. Fair enough – busy night, you’d expect a few best sellers. By the time we were ushered to our table Julie’s first choice of trout fishcake was off too and by this time we could see signs that the front of house were very stretched with some big parties in already.
I ordered belly pork as a starter portion (it was available as a main course only), Jon had potted shrimps and Julie had ham hock terrine. These were all very good and served promptly. Drinking the house Merlot as recommended we were happy enough and it’s here that things really did start to unravel.
After asking twice we got our jug of water. Then they couldn’t find any glasses for the water and they arrived warm from the dishwasher. Then our unused wine glasses were taken from our table not because Jon & Sam weren’t drinking wine (as you would expect) but because “we’ve run out of wine glasses”! Mains took about 40 minutes to arrive and then the wheels fell off good and proper. Sam’s gastro burger arrived with a pile of sliced, boiled potatoes, excuse: “we’ve run out of chips”. Five minutes later, the waiter turned up with two bowls of chips for Julie and I! It really was farcical. By now every time a waiter came near he apologised before doing anything. On top of this, Jon’s main course was the same size as my starter! Now, Jon’s a farmer so he likes his grub and plenty of it so this really was the last straw! (the chips were superb, by the way – twice fried).
It seemed like the kitchen was in meltdown and the front of house were doing their best to manage a very full restaurant. We summoned the manager and to be fair to him he sat with us whilst we all complained – Jon’s lesson in how to complain was a joy to behold. He was firm, fair but delivered his opinions without holding back! At the end of the day, the prices weren’t cheap so they really have to do better.
The manager promised he’d fix it and fair play to him, he took off the booze and Jon’s main course. So meal for 4 of us was just £55. Even so, we were very disappointed and from the food we tasted I think there’s a good chef at work, it was just a shame that on the night we visited, the service and organisation was all over the place. It was that bad, we kept expecting Neil Morrissey to pop around the corner with a film crew making the latest episode in the documentary series “When gastro pubs go wrong”.
On balance I would recommend the place and we said we’d go back…but to be honest it was all a bit embarrassing so we probably wouldn’t pay a return visit. This site has always got to be warts and all and it’s extremely rare that we have this kind of experience, which does speak volumes about the general quality levels these days.