This lovely 15th century coaching inn is located in the heart of Suffolk and surrounded by the most beautiful walking and touring countryside, making it a great pit stop. We stopped here quite by accident whilst driving through en route to Hadleigh one cold January afternoon which made the wooden floors, inglenook fire and requisite dog waterbowl all the more alluring. Hessian upholstered sofas, rich heritage paints and a mixed bag of relaxing and comfortable seating plus more formal dining areas offers plenty of choice for the mud splattered walker or those intent on the Big Night Out.
Bar snack are available including a haute-bas Fish finger sandwich but we decided to eat from the lunch menu in the smoke painted dining area, stripped back in design although not in service and welcome. The menu is modern English in style with classical French underpinnings and has a carefully edited selection of starters including smoked haddock and hens egg fishcakes with chive veloute, potted shrimp with Melba toast and English snails with parsley butter. I ordered Jugged hare with chestnut gnocchi adding in a less usual side of Rocket salad with Parmiggiano which although a starter, proved substantial enough. Sticky, reduced and intense enough to coat the back of a spoon and clearly finished with a good scoop of butter, the Hare melted on the tongue and was as rich and wintry as everything jugged should be.
Gnocchi can be leaden little carb bombs but these were fluffy and bosky, referencing nearby woodlands and damp hedgerows. The dish was strongly reminiscent of the rich Hare stews of the Italian Le Marche region, the Rocket salad cutting any tendency to adipose richness and further riffing off Italian bitter greens. My husband had the curried parsnip soup accompanied by spiced apple and walnut bread. Like a frothy, spiced vegetal milkshake, the soup was delicately spiced to the point of being a tad under although being a salt hound I am prepared to concede that my palate may be a little warped. Husband loved it.
Much vicarious pleasure was had from observing other customers demolish piles of Crown fries served in little fryer baskets accompanied by teetering Crown burgers served with a paving slab of my favourite local cheese- Suffolk Gold. Husband ordered the fish pie with greens and smoked haddock croquette. Being Pescetarian, he often struggles to find adequate choice on a menu but actually had one this time- Wild mushroom risotto with poached duck egg; fish and chips; spinach, feta and pine nut tortilla and Eggs Benedict. The fish pie came with great waves of virtual reality piped creamed potatoes in the manner of Joel Rebuchon’s seminal signature dish- melty, loaded with butter, cream and super luxe offset by a crunch coated croquette that offered some textural contrast to all the unctuousness. Well worth a stolen taste and worth risking a stab from his fork as Husband assertively defended his plate. Always a good sign. The chef clearly intends to breathe new life into established classics be they bar food (burgers) or ‘faine dining’ (Chicken Liver Parfait) using local ingredients..Seasonal. Fresh.
The oft neglected skills of the Patissiere and Chocolatiere are finally making a comeback and The Crown has some spectacular themed puddings (Tropical) alongside the more trad; Creme Brulee, Pots De Chocolat and Crumbles. Being rammed to the gills we chose Petit Fours and coffee and were duly presented with four little morsels of such cuteness that I wanted to name them and take them home as pets. Pate De Fruit was pure essence of grainy pear and showed a light hand with the gelatine. No Melton Fruit style gelatinous bounce in the mouth here. Dark chocolate Bon Bon filled with icy berry sorbet, a brandied cream chocolate encased square and a block of peanut butter fudge were all perfectly made and presented with the understatement that always accompanies the spectacular. It just knows it needs no extra fanfare.
Pretty disgusted with ourselves that it took so long to discover this place. Early adopters we are not. The prices are good considering they charge similar to what many chain ‘Bistro’ places charge- those establishments nicknamed ‘Maisons’ De La Casa House’ by Calvin Trillin with their bought in melange of cucina rustica. This place is the real deal and the Chef Zack Deakins and his team are to be congratulated.
We paid for our own meal and the restaurant neither solicited this review nor knew we were coming.