Burchetts Green Road,
Berkshire, SL6 6QZ
Tel. 01628 824 079
Food type: British Gastropub
Nearest tube: N/A
Website: the Crown at Burchetts Green
Note: A few days after this blog post went live, the Crown was awarded a deserved Michelin star in the 2017 guide.
I am embarrassed. That I live fairly close to Burchetts Green (well 30 minutes drive) and yet I have never heard about the Crown or been to it. It was during a recent conversation with Andy that he mentioned this pub that I started doing a bit of research on it. Simon Bonwick cooks alone in his kitchen with front of house run by his family. His son has FoH experience at a few serious restaurants – Waterside Inn, Aubergine, Hand & Flowers and Les Pres de Eugenie (Michel Guerard). Although the setting is a local pub, the cooking here is unashamedly classical French. Do you even remember what that is these days? There was a time when meat was roasted a la minute with the skill of the chef determining the cuisson and not simply setting the timer for the water bath.
The dining room is very cosy with low ceilings and wooden tables. French music was played in the background when we visited giving it a lovely Parisian bistro vibe. The menu is written on a black board as you enter but printed menus are also brought to the table. Prices are refreshingly very fair – starters are £6 to £10, mains £19 to £26 and desserts £7. Dishes come complete so there is no need for pesky side dishes to bulk up your dish. On average, you are looking at £35 for a 3 course meal here which is absurdly good value.
We started off with a little nibble of ‘Mushroom sandwich’ – Simon had been out foraging and came across some mushrooms he was keen to serve. Sandwiched between two thin slices of crisp melba toast were little mushrooms with some chestnuts and spiked with a little truffle oil. The mushrooms looked like St. George mushrooms to me but it is also the wrong season for them. The dish was finished off with a little sauce – a meaty reduction with prunes added for a touch of sweetness and added stickiness. Yummy.
I started with some crab – large chunks of picked crab meat bound with a light mayonnaise and seasoned with a little lemon. I really enjoyed the fact the chef had decided to keep the crab meat in large chunks as it gives a lovely mouthfeel. To accompany the crab were some batons of apple, cashews and a vinaigrette made with some sesame oil. The sesame oil was very well judged as it is one of those ingredients that can so easily overpower everything else on the plate.
We then shared a middle course of cod cooked with ‘Arabian spices’. At a guess I would think this is the chef’s secret ras-el-hanout mix. A nice chunk of cod was carefully cooked so that it flaked away beautifully with the spice mix gentle and giving a lovely perfume to it. Accompanying the cod was a bhaji of some sort which was very tasty.
Chef kindly sent out another small bite before our main course – salmon cured in moonshine which the family make themselves. The salmon had a firm, meaty texture to it and surprisingly plenty of flavour. When I enquired about the provenance of the fish Simon’s son told me it was from London Bridge. I am not sure how true that is, but it was a tasty piece of salmon.
I tried the salt marsh lamb rump which was slow cooked but still retained its pinkness. To accompany it were turned carrots (haven’t seen that in a while) and a lovely fondant potato. What made the dish though was the sauce – a garlic infused jus which was served in abundant amounts, with the jug left on the side in case you wish for more. Actually forget the lamb, give me a jug of the sauce and plenty of their baguettes and I am a happy man. You hardly get classical cooking like this nowadays and when it is done so well it just makes you want to weep for joy.
To finish, I tried the lemon tart which had excellent pastry and a lovely soft set curd centre with a good amount of sharpness. If this had come from a Parisian patisserie, you would have happily paid top dollar for it. As were the petit fours which were served afterwards – excellent macaroons and florentines.
As of the most recent Michelin guide (2016), the Crown holds a Bib Gourmand. It is definitely a place with excellent value and the level of cooking here would put plenty of 1* places to shame. That it does not have a star is perhaps because the cooking here is so unashamedly classical and dare I say it, ‘old fashioned’. It seems like it is the trend with Michelin these days is to award stars to places which serve modernist food or street food as is the case with the joke Singapore guide. We were the only people dining that evening (we were informed that a party had cancelled at the last minute) which is a shame given the level of cooking on display here. Simply put, if you live remotely close by, do yourself a favour and pay this place a visit.