The white neon lights outside The Continental in Portland don’t scream pub. Photos by Greg Bryan

My brother lives in England with his British wife, and they spend a lot of time in pubs. When I heard that the recently opened Continental, the latest from owners Michael Barbuto and Kevin Doyle (who, along with Michael Fraser, also own CBG and Nosh), was inspired by English and Irish pubs, I immediately knew who I would bring with me on a visit.

From outside, the place looks nothing like a pub. Bright white neon letters scream “CONTINENTAL” in all caps, making it incredibly easy to find. The walls are actually windows, giving it more of a diner look while peering through, but once we had entered, sat down, and looked around a bit more, my British sister-in-law was the first to admit that it felt a lot more “pubby” inside.

We were a group of four, so we decided not to sit at the actual bar (which unfortunately does not have hooks underneath), opting instead for a comfortable booth. There are also regular tables (where we spotted at least one family with small children) and another bar-level counter looking out at the parking lot. Wooden tables and chairs, upholstered booths and barstools, poster-sized framed black-and-white photos on the wallpapered walls (with wood paneling on the bottom), and a brown/blue/gray color scheme completed the look. Music and lighting were at decent levels, allowing easy conversation without having to look at each other’s skin defects.

The decor inside has more of a “pubby” vibe.”

There’s no cocktail menu at The Continental, but there is a full bar. I don’t expect a cocktail menu when I go to a pub in England or Ireland – I expect a reasonable selection of beer/lager/ale/etc., some crappy wine options, and very basic gin and tonics. The Continental’s beer menu offered seven $8 draft beers: Guinness, Reissdorf (a Kolsch), Carlsberg (a Danish lager), Schilling Alexandr (a Czech Pilsner), Battery Steele Flume (a New England IPA), Allagash Tripel (a local Belgian Ale), and Bunker Libbytown Brown. The 31 cans and bottles ranged from $3.50 to $11 and included four non-alcoholic ones. In keeping with the European theme, most of the beers were from various European countries, with a few local options and a few other North American ones, though the menu did not provide details about the origin or alcohol percentage of the canned and bottled beers, making it hard for anyone unfamiliar with the specific beers to order without having to interrogate the server.

Beers at The Continental are mainly from Europe, but there are some North American and local options.

I’m not a beer person, so I was delighted to see that there was a much better menu of wines by the glass than I would have expected. The list had 11 options ranging from $11-$14: five reds (a red blend and a cabernet sauvignon from California, a rioja from Spain, a natural red wine from France, and a pinot noir from Burgundy), five whites (an albarino from Spain, a gruner veltliner from Austria, a dry riesling from New York, an Italian chardonnay and a French sauvignon-viognier), and a rosé.

The food menu is much more European, with pub classics such as an $11 Scotch egg, $20 fish and chips, $20 bangers and mash (Irish sausage and mashed potatoes with onion gravy), and $22 shepherds pie. There were also a few items from other places in Europe, such as the $22 chicken schnitzel with Hungarian butter (translation: it has paprika in it) and the $13 French onion soup, which rivals that of my beloved, now-defunct Petite Jacqueline.

My two British dining companions gave it their stamp of approval – what more do you need?

Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while making as many puns as her editor allows.

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