The Punchbowl Mayfair – a little known pub punching above its weight

Just a few minutes walk away from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly, Green Park and Bond Street is Mayfair, a maze of streets off Berkeley Square dating back three centuries. Many have names reflecting their one time rural setting of which Farm Street is the best example.

Even long time Londoners would be hard pushed to find it although many have heard of its church – the high Gothic Church of the Immaculate Conception, both the headquarters of the Jesuits in London and an architectural gem.

But the church, dating back to the 1840s is a mere youngster compared with the Punchbowl, a pub a few doors down which can claim a record of nearly 300 years. And it has the décor to match. It’s been associated with gangsters and royalty – they often mix – and used to be owned by film director and former Madonna husband Guy Ritchie. Now the ownership is more anonymous – which is good as you should go there for the eating rather than entertainment links.

In common with many pubs, it’s the food that’s important at the Punchbowl although it has a good collection of beers and wines. There are bar snacks (around £4 to £8), but part of “pub grub” is now fine dining so the restaurant boasts dishes such as stuffed rabbit saddle (£17.50) and lamb rump ( £19.50) very English but with a modern twist.

It also majors in game – partridge, grouse, wild duck and whatever else is in season – at least in its occasional supper club where, for £55, you get to eat, drink and enjoy an expert talking about their passion. I went on a themed Scotch Whisky night where we tasted the drink and worked out what went with what – no wine, no beer, no cider – guided by Paul Flatts of Whisky Drams. Purists might like to know that Flatts is happy for anyone to mix any Scotch, even the priciest with water or ice (only drawing the line at Cola!). And he’s a fan of Bourbon and Japanese whisky as well.

We started with Mallard Duck Carpaccio – beautifully sliced duck served with gorgonzola. quail eggs, orange and carrot purée. It was delicious.

The bacon wrapped Scottish Grouse Breast with confit leg, and sautéed spinach was also good although some decided the small confit leg not worth the bother. I disagreed but I thought the sour cherry jus was not sour enough or jus-ful enough or flavoursome enough. It was the one negative note.

The main course was Venison served with a sweet potato gratin, beetroot purée, carmelised figs and venison jus. This was also excellent but most judged the dessert – the Plum Tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream as a high spot. Certainly a chef who can pull off such a selection of meat dishes (OK ignore the cherry) and still have something left for the pudding might not hang around that long before he is poached by a bigger rival.

The Punchbowl

41, Farm Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5RP

Phone 020 7493 6841

Stations: Green Park, Bond Street

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