THIS week, Pub Spy decided to venture out of the city centre to The Punch Bowl in Ronkswood, to sample a traditional estate pub.

ON my approach to The Punch Bowl there was an immediate sign that this is a popular place: the small car park was full. This made me all the keener to sample the delights of one of the highlights of Ronkswood.

After finding a parking space in a side street, I made my way along the edge of the metal perimeter fence and had to undo a leather dog lead which was keeping the gate closed, before carefully fastening the 'lock' again.

The exterior of the pub was well presented and clean and makes a pleasant sight from the nearby housing estate.

I arrived at around 5.30pm on a Saturday and the main bar area was already heaving, with animated customers talking loudly over their drinks.

No hot food was available so I opted for a bag of KP's Dry Roasted Peanuts along with my pint of Stella, and found the barman polite and the prices reasonable.

The main bar was so busy that there were no seats available, so I had to go back outside and then enter the rear bar area – it was a good job it wasn’t raining as I didn’t have my Castrol GTX waterproof coat with me.

There was a group of lads playing pool there and I joined them for a game, even managing to win a match, and I was impressed by the quality of the pool table and the surrounding padded seating area.

The lads told me that the bar had been moved back by three feet to create more room to play pool. The rise remains but with yellow and black warning tape to mark the danger which – and it was entirely my fault, time for an eye test I think – I managed to miss and trip over, which was slightly embarrassing, although at least the seat of my slacks didn't rip this time.

The jukebox in the pool area was out of order so I would have had to walk back outside into the main bar to select songs, so I made do with humming inside my head. What was the tune? In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins.

Now, most people know that The Punch Bowl has a bit of a reputation for being a pub where you don't want to make eye contact with the wrong person, so I'd be lying if I said that I didn't spend my time in there in a state of hypervigilance, however I actually found the customers I spoke to nothing but friendly.

At one point I could hear arguing from the main bar area, but my new-found friends at the pool table reassured me that all was fine and it wouldn’t turn into a riot. One of them joked that I didn't need to worry because any fighting would take place outside anyway.

When nature called, I found the toilets a bit dated. The urinal looked worn as did the tiled floor, but everything was clean and there was hot running water and soap which is more than can be said of some pubs.

My new friends told me the backroom, which was closed, offered skittles, and I was disappointed that there was no chance of a game that evening.

So, what's my verdict on The Punch Bowl? Well, it could do with a lick of paint and I was disappointed by the lack of hot food but, to be fair, this isn't a gastropub – it's a place where you go for a pint and a chat, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

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