Sometimes when you walk through a restaurant doors you know from the off that it’s going to be good.
Punch Bar and Tapas in the centre of Honley looks a quality place from the outside.
Step through the doors and the feeling continues from the surroundings through to the food.
It’s got a throwback, nostalgic atmosphere with the vintage light bulbs, white tiles on one of the walls conjuring up an oldy worldy market feel while the bar is made up of a whole range of different ceramic tiles – it’s hard work picking out your favourite one.
There are tables and then there are booths and although not a big restaurant there’s a distinct feeling of space.
Apparently it can get packed at a weekend as people are welcome to go just for a drink as it doubles as a cocktail bar.
Cocktails? Don’t mention that to Mrs Hirst. Too late. She’d seen the menu. Two were ordered.
And the menu, although not huge, is spot-on. Too much choice can leave you ‘food blind’ as it can be a pain to plough through, leading to indecision and perhaps not the right choices.
But here there are six specials, 14 mains, 11 starters and five puddings.
And there was no indecision. We wanted just about everything – we just had to calm down, be sensible and opted for nine.
I love tapas and the reason is you never feel – as mums always say – overfaced. The dishes just keep on coming.; you pick bits from here and there, your plate’s never more than half full and you can lose track of how much you get through.
And it’s probably best for the digestion system too.
Side dishes were spanish tomato bread with ripe tomato pulp, garlic and olive oil on top (£3.50), sweet potato fries (£3) and baby corn nestling in chilli, lime, ginger and sesame butter (£4).
From the specials we had prawns, crab and orzo (£7.50); onglet steak with sautéed potatoes, caramelised onion and tarragon mayo (£7.50); homemade chorizo paté (£6.50) and from the mains patatas bravas in a spicy tomato sauce and homemade aioli (£4), Mr Punch’s meatballs (£5.50) and Punch paella with chicken, clams and Mediterranean veg (£6).
There, that should do it. Don’t want to seem greedy now.
As more and more arrived it started to resemble a Mediterranean banquet. And that’s a very good thing.
We’d never had chorizo paté before but this was spectacular – blending spice with subtlety – and you could spread it on the lightly toasted bread.
The steak is done medium rare so it’s pink and just the right shade while the paella came with a gigantic prawn sat proudly on top.
Bet I don’t have to shell it, I thought. Bet you do thought the rest of them. So I did.
The paella was moist with the flavours shining through. There were big juicy prawns in the crab and orzo dish – tiny pasta has never been so delicately used – and we really ought to start making patatas bravas at home as it lifts your humble potato to a whole new level.
The baby sweetcorn sure are newborns – could sweetcorn get any smaller? – and it was inspirational to bathe them in a little chili.
As for the sweet potato fries – they’re as light as it gets and impossible not return to them again and again ... and again.
If I was being really picky the only thing I could think of to mention was I thought Mr Punch’s meatballs were a tad dry.
Perhaps he’d been whacking them with his stick.
On to puddings and we had almond tart with lemon ice cream (£5) and churros with chocolate sauce (£5).
The lemon was wonderful in the ice-cream, getting across the citric flavour without it being too sharp and the tart was soft and crumbly.
Churros are a fried-dough pastry set as strips and sprinkled with sugar, ideal to dip into chocolate. Now that’s a taste combination.
We went with friends Kath and Jason so between us got through a couple of cocktails, a bottle of wine and three pints of beer which pumped the bill up.
A great night. And it was only Monday.
11 Westgate, Honley, HD9 6AA
Phone: 01484 662359
Opening hours: Tuesday closed. Monday and Wednesday 4pm to 11pm and kitchen closes at 9pm. Thursday noon to 11pm (kitchen closes at 9pm). Friday and Saturday noon until late (kitchen closes at 9.30pm),
Sunday noon to 11pm and kitchen closes at 6.30pm
Children: Very welcome
Disabled access: Yes and there is a disabled toilet.
Two steps up to the outside door.
The bill: £105 for four including quite a few drinks
Would you go back? Definitely