The Crown at Burchetts Green has a lone chef, Simon Bonwick, working in the kitchen entirely on his own, starting each week with an empty fridge. On Monday he gathers his supplies, often venturing to Cornwall to visit his favourite fishermen, and by Wednesday evening he is ready to serve customers. It was awarded a Michelin star in the 2017 guide which it has retained ever since. The a la carte menu had starters ranging in price from £4 to £9, main courses £13 to £18, and desserts at £7.
My latest meal here started with a series of little tartlets. Chickpeas and smoked olives are a Crown signature nibble, and work really well together. Shrimp with a touch of spice was very good, as was French crab with lentils, the contrasting textures and the contrast of the sweet crab and the earthy lentils an interesting idea. Best of all was a tartlet of Breton prawns with hazelnuts and a touch of orange, the shellfish having lovely natural sweetness (easily 16/20).
The next dish was a fine example of the style of cooking at The Crown. Soups have almost disappeared from menus these days in this Instagram age, where customers care as much about how flashy the photo of their food will look on the internet as how it tastes. Fish soup is one of those bistro cliché dishes that is easy enough to make but hard to make well. It often ends up being a thin, watery concoction where the dominant taste is the rouille. The version here is very different. The bones from the fish are used to make a deeply flavoured stock, as are the shells of the langoustines and lobster that feature elsewhere on the menu. The finished product is a silky, deeply flavoured delight, tasting of the very essence of the sea. The cup of soup was topped with a delicate, thin cracker made from flaky pastilla pastry. The last time I had a fish soup of this calibre was when I ate the iconic version made by Nico Ladenis (a strong 18/20).
This was followed by a ball of mixed grains including lentils and quinoa, along with harissa, cucumber, avocado, dates and pomegranate seeds and a cheese wafer. This resembled the sort of falafel that you dream of but never materialises. Instead of a dry, hard sphere the version here was beautifully moist and rich with fragrant flavour (16/20). Turbot was a generous slab of precisely cooked fish from a huge 8 kg fish (with turbot, the bigger the fish, the better the flavour as a rule), served with leeks, potato, spinach and a sauce of mushroom consommé thickened with sea lettuce to give a savoury umami flavour (17/20).
The transition to dessert was marked by a St Marcellin cheese with excellent flapjacks that were miles away from the hard oat bars that we have all tasted over the years. The version here had excellent texture, the golden syrup bringing a lovely flavour that worked well with the rich cheese (16/20). This was followed by canelé with pear sorbet and chocolate ice cream. This French pastry, with a custard centre and caramelised crust, flavoured with vanilla and rum, is tough to pull off. It often ends up hard and dry, but not here. This rendition had gorgeous texture, the pear and chocolate flavours complementing it well (16/20). The final dessert was a rich one: hot syrup sponge, which had surprisingly light texture and was a comforting dessert on this cold and blustery winter day. This was topped with excellent vanilla ice cream and the texture was remarkably light (18/20). Coffee was the Kilimanjaro blend from Nespresso, the high-end capsule sold only to Michelin starred restaurants. This came with raspberry macarons.
Service from Simon Bonwick’s son Dean was charming, and the bill came to £50 a head. The Crown is a joy to eat at, its cooking being skilful and getting better and better with each visit, the welcome here being warm and the prices generous.