I’ve only ever been to the Bowling Green in Ashbourne in darkness I think. The pub is located on the edge of the town centre up a steep hill on the road to Buxton. I live on the hill on the opposite side of the town so it’s a lengthy schlep from one side to the other.
I’ve been quite a few times recently, both for a drink and for a meal, so I’m in a reasonable position to judge.the pub is literally a pub of two halves. The lounge bar is mainly for diners but it is nicely divided up into some quite distinct areas with a mixture of seating which preserves the pub feel. The area nearest the bar is used for restaurant tables but still feels “pubby”. The decor is simple wood and white walls with photos of Ashbourne, Shrovetide football and old Indentures. There are still some cosy little nooks so that they can cater for a romantic Valentines meal as well as the family celebration. It always feels cosy.
The food offered is good old pub fayre. There are a selection of starters. I have to say that, because the portions are large here we have generally skipped the starters. I’ve seen the nacho plate and tasted the mushrooms in a creamy sauce on a brioche. The mushroom sauce is just how I like it – thick, unctuous and creamy. Very tasty but undoubtedly horrendous for the waistline.
The main courses feature steaks, pie, chicken and a rather good fish and chips. There is nothing exotic here but the cooking is good. A really nice twist is the addition of haggis as a side-dish option. This is a good idea to differentiate the pub and is especially clever given the annual Highland Gathering in the town. The Chicken Balmoral (featuring Haggis) is my wife’s favourite but she has been unable to finish it so far. I’ve tried the steaks (always cooked correctly), the steak and guest ale pie (enormous) and the fish and chips. The chips are always really nice with a good crisp outer edge and fluffy potato in the middle. Some pub food serves large portions at the expense of quality but the Bowling Green gets the right balance. It might be a nice option if they serve half portions or ‘lite bite’ versions – they may already because I haven’t asked.
The other half of the pub is decidedly and terrifically old school. Most recently I went to watch the football on a horribly wet and windy night. The bar is spacious and nicely dark. There are caricatures of regulars around the walls, some Shrovetide balls hanging over the bar and some photographs to enjoy. The beer was good – I can recommend the Pedigree and Doom Bar bitter.
I also liked that there was a darts match against the Wheel when we were there. This is a proper functioning pub that has good regular trade as well as the visiting restaurant customers. It works well because the landlord knows what the customers want. We were happy to watch the football without the sound but the landlord offered to turn it on for us as soon as he realised that was what we were there for. In the lounge bar a pub quiz was going on and this is/used to be the venue for the end of Arts Festival quiz which always draws a big crowd.
Staff have always been welcoming and helpful and so we’ll keep coming back occasionally. The walk from one side of Ashbourne to the other helps to offset the portions.