I've told many people about my recent visits to the Cock & Bull English Pub in Covington. Mostly, just because it's so fun to say: Cock and Bull. Cock and Bull. Cock and Bull. Cock and Bull. See what I mean? If you're curious about the origin of the pub's name, you'll have to check out the painted scroll that adorns the main dining room wall. Aside from the obvious phonetic fun, the Cock & Bull is worth recommending for a casual meal or just for knocking back a few pints of a favorite English ale at the end of the week.
Historic Mainstrasse is the perfect setting for this year-old, English-style pub. Its store-front spot on the corner of Sixth and Main streets is a prime location for watching folks on the adjacent promenade.
Inside, the refurbished antique bar (equipped with more than a dozen imports on tap) serves as the focal point. The rest of the room is filled with about a dozen two- to four-person tables. The few times we visited, the place was bustling but not crowded, mostly with young professionals, and a few families for a weekend supper.
English-style pubs (or Irish or Scottish, for that matter) in Midwest, USA, have a unique challenge compared to their plain ol' American-style bar cousins. Most bar patrons like the idea of an English pub, because it has a cozy feel — different from an American sports bar, for example. But typical English pub food is nothing like popular American bar food (that is, lots of appetizers and a varied menu that appeals to all tastes.) Fortunately, the Cock & Bull tackles this challenge without straying (too far) from its English theme by offering both traditional pub grub as well as American favorites with a twist. And, of course, the extensive list of draught choices — including Fuller's London E.S.B., Fuller's London Porter, and Tennant's Lager, to name a few — lends to the pub's authenticity.
On our first visit, we were smitten with our sassy server. She was patient enough to recite the extensive list of draught selections each time a newcomer straggled in to our party. (Note to owners: Give this poor girl a break. How about a printed beer menu?) Yet she was quick with a comeback whenever we challenged her about a menu item ("The Queen's Nachos: Are those any good?" "Take a chance, for crying out loud.") This ain't exactly five-star dining, but our server was the most accommodating we've had in a long time. And most importantly, she never let any of us empty a glass before another pint was on the way.
We did take a chance on the Queen's Nachos ($8.95). Although not one of those traditional pub items, we were happy with the choice, especially the fresh tomatoes and spicy chicken. It's an extremely large portion — enough for four of us to share with some to spare. We also sampled the Spring Pinwheels ($6.95), a mix of lettuce, tomatoes and sliced turkey rolled in a flour tortilla and sliced into wheels. It's also served with a balsamic mayo for dipping. They were perfect for a lighter appetizer, or would even make a good lunch.
Then, on another visit, my husband discovered the one item that will now make the Cock & Bull one of his favorite spots: the Crispy Drumettes. Unlike folks who prefer to vary their diets, men like my husband are satisfied with a limited range. In fact, two items do the trick: good draught beer and chicken wings. Fortunately, the Cock & Bull excels in both categories. The Crispy Drumettes ($6.95 for 12; $8.95 for 18) are heavily seasoned and breaded chicken legs, deep-fried and smothered in a hot or honey garlic barbecue sauce. Although the pub has recently added non-breaded wings for patrons who prefer the traditional style, my husband swears by the Crispy Drumettes. He talks about them. It's weird.
British specialties on the menu include Bangers 'n' Mash ($7.95 lunch; $9.95 dinner), a spicy sausage specially made for the pub by Glier's Meats in Covington, a whopping side of red-skinned mashed potatoes, a dollop of whole grain beer mustard for dipping, and a side of mushy peas. It was another hit on one of our visits. The Fish 'n' Chips ($7.95; $10.95) are also a good choice. The fish is good quality: moist, tender and flavorful. The pub's version is crispy, not greasy, and the homemade tartar sauce and crispy fries round out the selection well.
One to avoid is the California Penne Pasta. Although described on the menu as a mix of "steamed broccoli, cauliflower and other veggies in a light garlic butter sauce," mine arrived as a large portion of penne topped with a thawed out mix of frozen summer squash (I think that's what it was; it was kind of orange), zucchini and onions. Although it was colorful and substantial, it lacked flavor. Stick with the Soup, Salad and Bread Plate ($6.95) for a vegetarian option, instead.
Desserts are limited to assorted (thawed) cheesecakes, if you must end your meal with something sweet. I'd recommend conserving the calories for another frothy Murphy's Irish Stout or a coffee with Bailey's.
For good old, Midwestern, Americanized English pub grub in the heart of German Mainstrasse Village, don't be confused: The Cock & Bull English Pub is another great find for socializing and casual dining. ©
Cock & Bull English Pub
Go: Sixth and Main streets, Mainstrasse Village, Covington
Hours: Sunday Noon-1 a.m.
Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
Prices: Reasonable to Moderate
Payment: Major credit cards.
Beyond Red Meat: Fish and chips, pinwheels, shrimp bisque and salads.
Strict vegetarians have fewer choices: California Penne Pasta or side salad.
Other: Outside tables in cooperative weather.