The City of Richmond has hundreds of restaurants, but located at 421 E. Franklin St. is the second-longest-running establishment downtown. Penny Lane Pub is 35 years old and provides an escape from a southern city to a bustling pub in Liverpool, England.
The British pub is decorated with ample signs of English culture. Through the main entrance to the pub sits a semi-outdoor seating area surrounded by British pop culture symbols. A large fountain sits in the middle of this seating area, which includes about seven tables. Nostalgic sounds of the Beatles blare through the speakers. An iconic red telephone booth, ubiquitous in cities in England, stands in the corner by the entrance showcasing the day's specials. Seats in this area are surrounded by images of Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, the Tower of London, a double-decker bus and other symbols that make you feel like you just hopped onto a plane and landed in the motherland.
The decorations are amazing, but the food is even better. The pub has several specialties that it flaunts as being its most ordered items. These include fish and chips, which are a lightly beer battered whiting fish. The white fish have a light flaky texture that melts in your mouth. The batter does not overpower the dish, but rather complements the fish's taste. The fish and chips normally come with chips, but I chose to pair them with the signature sweet potato fries, which were crispy and well seasoned with salt and pepper. Nothing from my meal was overpowering or too greasy. The meal was light for something that consisted solely of fried food.
Penny Lane Pub's other four specialties include its bangers and mash, which are English sausages with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables. The other specialty is a cottage pie, which is made with ground beef and vegetables baked into a casserole and topped with peas and mashed potatoes. Its fourth specialty is called stacked chicken, which consists of pan-seared chicken medallions that are surrounded by spinach and feta and covered with a roasted red pepper cream sauce.
Penny Lane's menu also consists of the expected findings in a pub, burgers and sandwiches -- or "butties" as the menu refers to them. But what seems to scream British culture the most is not the food or the decorations but the older-looking man who welcomes every patron at the door with a warm British accent.
Terry O'Neill is the owner of Penny Lane Pub and greets his patrons with a "Hi love" and a warm smile. He stands at the host station in the front by the red telephone booth, smoking a cigarette as he waits for his next customer to arrive. He opened this restaurant 35 years ago on 7th Street and moved it five years ago to its current location on East Franklin Street.
"It's a British-oriented neighborhood restaurant without the neighborhood," O'Neill said.
The pub often has regulars during lunch and happy hour. Within the pub lies a two-level bar. The downstairs section is a very traditional bar, which is cloaked in British decorations and images of pints and beer memorabilia. Upstairs, pool tables and dartboards invite the everyday enthusiast to enjoy their cold pint.
Penny Lane Pub offers an escape for any age, group size or couple to the land of the Beatles where strangers don't seem to exist, without the hassle of purchasing a plane ticket to Liverpool.
Contact staff writer Phuong Tran-Le at email@example.com
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