Riddle’s foodie is taken by Heston’s pub and the food found within
Review by Sophie Aghdami
Heston Blumenthal is an exceptionally successful man (and brand). In fact; I often cycle through Bray and marvel at how he has taken over so much of the village, perhaps much to the residents’ frustration. He has, officially world’s best restaurant, The Fat Duck as well as the stunning, The Hinds Head, a beautifully executed high-end ‘pub’.
On my last cycle ride, I discovered the development kitchen for the whole empire is only a few metres from both of these Blumenthal temples – complete with darkened windows and a location off the beaten track.
My most recent discovery was The Crown. Just a few doors down, clad only in its own, confident pub-like raiment and standing tall and proud as ‘the only pub in the village’ to serve outstanding food. Intrigued as a lover of The Good Olde Local, I decided to book a table for my birthday lunch.
First impressions count and those made upon arriving at The Crown were second to none. A warm, friendly, immediate – which is key – as well as genuine atmosphere was palpable and the nicest thing of all was that the staff came across as actually wanting to be there. Forgive me for mentioning the same thing over and over but really – you can tell if you’re being served by a teenager who just wants money for a beer and sausage roll or someone who genuinely cares about where (and who) they are. At this place it’s the latter.
We arrived, were greeted warmly and offered a drink before being seated inside. ‘Can we have a drink outside first please?’, ‘Of course’ (followed by an upsell to their daily gin cocktail special, which was superb!). We sat in the garden; dog lovers / owners can rest assured, our canine friends are not just allowed in but welcomed everywhere. With a garden full of all-sorts – from ‘Arrogant Man in Red Trousers Smoking Cigar’ – to a family of locals just wanting a quick burger – the Crown is a place to relax.
Now to the actual food…
Having decided, in the end, to eat outside (still with full service), I found the menu is simple but a little too restrictive. Usually I struggle to choose between dishes however this time I actually struggled to find one. Maybe I was reading into things too much, but it seemed odd to me that there were four main dishes based around beef yet no chicken, pork or lamb. Whilst the menu was not boring per se, I did just wonder if there could have been rather more variety. I decided on the prawn cocktail and vegetarian main (a first!). Date chose crab on toast and roasted pollack for main.
The starters were quite excellent. A generous amount of crab topped Date’s sour dough starter, and my prawn cocktail was beautifully layered with a Bloody Mary sauce and very juicy seafood.
Mains: Date’s pollack was lovely – roasted and richly topped with shrimp butter, and my vegetarian main was surprisingly delicious – a generous bed of quinoa with goat’s curd, roasted leeks and heritage beetroots. So good, although as not tremendously filling, it provided ample justification for dessert and cheese.
Dessert was equally delicious – Eton Mess – controversially made with banana – followed by a cheeseboard of an excellent British variety of what my mother calls ‘an assortment of fats’. As it was a date to celebrate, cheese was complemented with a very good glass of Malbec.
This place is the perfect destination for a Londoner looking for a slice of country life – just make sure you leave enough time to soak it up: it’s very moreish and an easy place to while away an afternoon. I left feeling like a well-fed lamb with a huge smile on my face. Good find!
Enquiries: The Crown at Bray, High Street, Bray, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 2AH/ 01628 621936/ email@example.com/ www.thecrownatbray.com