The Bowling Green: 29-30 Blackboy Rd, Exeter EX4 6ST
From the outside, The Bowling Green looks a little run down; as you walk up Blackboy road it can feel a little like the road to nowhere, with town behind you. Yet, as you step inside, any doubts should be overridden by the warm, hospitable atmosphere. This is one of the only pubs I know where you can sip your pint as you sit ensconced in a sofa, warmed by a fire (and as the other pub I can think of is about double the price, I know which one I would choose). In essence, it acts as a true public house should, as a place to relax, enjoy and socialise.
It is a pub. It has no pretensions to be anything else, and this self-understanding makes it such a place to go. If you want a quiet drink in a corner, a game of pool with mates or a laugh over a drunkenly played board game, The Bowling Green can provide all you need. This simple vibe is enhanced by the slightly mismatched and worn wooden furnishings, with a hint of styled lights and well-chosen layout that show this pub knows its punter and how to stay up to date. The aesthetic stretches to the playlists which, whilst notable, never seem intrusive and still manage to add to the classic pub feeling.
Unlike many pubs, The Bowling Green maintains a perfect balance of locals and students. It can be a nice respite from some of the pubs that are dominated by students and, as such, seem to cater only to the general student; these can get a bit dull if you ever want something other than cheap, dull beer and overly sweet ciders. It is also more than just a place to drink as it runs a hilarious pub quiz every Sunday and hosts live music on Saturdays.
When I popped in last week – on quite a cold night – I started off with a pint of the brilliant ‘Dragon’s Breath’ by Dartmoor Brewery. It is the perfect beer for this season and a firm favourite of the pub, being on tap for nearly the whole of winter. At 4.4% ABV, it is surprisingly dark and rich with a mild hoppy bite. Just the sort of beer you could imagine fortifying you on a bleak moor, which is fitting for a product of the highest brewery in England.
My next two beers were somewhat disappointing, but this should not be seen as a criticism of the pub, for they had other beers on that are consistently lovely – I just fancied trying something new. The first was ‘Trooper’ by Robinsons, which although having perfect credentials – an extra special bitter taking its name from an Iron Maiden song – fell rather flat. It was tasty enough with a well-balanced bitterness and malty backing. Yet compared to something like ‘ESB’ by Fuller’s, it was rather lacking in body and at 4.7% ABV failed to be either a reliable best bitter or a stronger, flavoursome extra special bitter. The final beer I had was ‘Wills Neck’ by Quantock. It was a perfectly decent golden ale, with the characteristic notes of American hops, but lacked the well-rounded feel of a beer, in which each aspect works together to create a perfect unity.
As well as drinks, The Bowling Green should be commended for its food. From pub classics to pizza, they consistently serve great food and at very reasonable prices. This, coupled with generously long serving hours, makes it rather hard to walk in, have a few pints and leave without giving in the urge for crisp yet fully chunky chips.
– Ed Bedford