Picture-perfect pub and food.
The window of decent weather was merely a stroke of luck. We’d booked to have Sunday lunch at The Crown in Frampton Mansell back in March some time, so the sun that bathed the recently showered the May countryside in a fabulous apple-green glow could not have worked out better. The Crown is perched precipitously on the side of the Stroud Valley and no matter where your gaze happens to land, it will be a sight not easily forgotten.
The beer garden, in this case out the front, is one of these welcome sights, defined by low stone walls, manicured flower beds, and your classic beer garden table, each marked out with proud red sun umbrellas. And when filled with people enjoying a drink in the sun, convivial does not come close. The building itself is solid stone and has no trouble making you think that it will be around a lot longer than you will. It is in no way forbidding, though, and as you stoop through the front door – there is no other way if you are my height – the bar is right in front of you, so you can order a drink even before you have any notion of where you plan to sit.
We had booked, though, and we went on down to what is becoming our usual – if accidentally so – table. The specials menu had a couple of excellent sounding fish dishes and the sausage-and-mash of the day option. Let me repeat that: a sausage-and-mash of the day. It might just be me, but I happen to think that is little short of genius. Forget soup, let’s have more sausages of the day! The menus here at The Crown are very good indeed, subject tor regular and refreshing change, though never losing their pub menu feel. This is hugely to be admired: there is no attempt at restaurant finery, and the foreign influences are largely kept at arms length and only deployed when suitable accents are needed. This food is pub food and also – largely – British food.
Of all the mains we ordered, it was the sea bass that either gave us food envy or had a couple of us looking very satisfied with their choice. It was pan fried, with garlic prawns, served with white asparagus, and some beautifully roasted silverskin onions and potatoes. The fish was perfectly cooked – crispy skin with firm and juicy flesh, and what really stood out – in a good way – was that there was no sauce to mess with the flavours; a brave choice but fully and triumphantly justified. Sometimes, you just need to let your ingredients do the talking. The burger was all you’d want: juicy and fully stacked with cheese, bacon and a full complement of salad. The stuffed roast chicken breast was equally well executed – succulent and served with a tomato sauce rather than gravy – a fresh change.
Dessert is hard to resist, whether you are full or not. Part of the reason for this is that the menu sits on your table on a blackboard daring you not to order. I capitulated instantly. It has pub classics such as sticky toffee pudding, crumble – currently apple and blackcurrant, but I have had pear and raisin and apple and raspberry on previous visits – as well as knickerbocker glory and a lemon meringue pie. This latter dish was delicious and served with apricot sorbet and fresh apricots. While the fresh apricots were a trifle firm, the sorbet was an inspired accompaniment to the dish and I could happily have devoured a large bowlful and been very happy indeed. All dishes are served with cream, custard or ice cream. And not a brownie in sight; this is a dessert menu particularly after my own heart – can you tell?
There is very little not to love about The Crown. One might be tempted to call it a gastropub, but I’ll refrain, not just because it’s a term that personally I think should be outlawed, but because it makes it sound like the food is all it has to offer. This is a proper pub, used and loved by the locals, and by the not-so-locals, and all in a beautiful setting. For that alone The Crown deserves the praise and support it earns. The food is just a (huge) bonus.