The Crown is very much a family-run affair, with chef-patron Simon Bonwick operating on his own in the kitchen but with assistance from some of his nine children. The restaurant deservedly gained a Michelin star in the latest 2017 guide, published in late 2016. It is located a few miles from junction 8 of the M4, about half an hour by car from Chiswick in good traffic. If you are coming from west London you would take a lot longer to get to, say, Old Street, so despite the apparent distance from London the journey here is quite manageable.
We had the set lunch today, which was an almost absurdly cheap £25. The wine list is short but has kindly pricing, ranging in price from £19 to £65. There are also some wines listed on a blackboard, and you can haggle over the price of these – no kidding. From the printed list there was El Mazo Chardonnay 2015 at £20 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £8, Pouilly Fuisse Girardin 2014 at £42 compared to its retail price of £19, and Fayolle Croze Hermitage Fayolle 2015 at £62 for a wine that will set you back £25 in a shop.
The meal began with crab garnished with herbs, heaped generously on a biscuit base. This is a simple dish but the crab was top notch (15/20). Also good was eel with a very delicate horseradish crisp along with parsley sauce. The eel had good flavour but the horseradish crisp was the star for me, thin and packed with flavour (14/20 overall).
Bread is made from scratch in the kitchen, and today was a choice of baguettes or garlic focaccia. This was good quality bread, the flour stone-milled from Shipton Mill in Tetbury – the garlic focaccia in particular had lovely texture (easily 15/20). Roscoff scallops and prawns were served in a shellfish nage, along with macadamia nuts, thyme and tiny fine beans. The shellfish was very good, the nage clear and cleanly flavoured, and the thyme (grown in the garden) had intense flavour (15/20).
Turbot came from a large 5kg fish (with turbot, the bigger the fish, the better the flavour in general) and was precisely cooked. This was served with butternut squash puree and potato puree on a bed of spinach leaves. However although the fish was great the star element was carrot and red wine sauce that had been intensely reduced to a rich, thick consistency that was packed with flavour; 1 litre of red wine had been reduced in volume by a factor of ten over many hours to make this stock, and it showed. On the side were mushrooms with a delicate and superbly flavoured Parmesan crisp. The sauce in particular demonstrated old-school cooking technique; to see such a labour-intensive dish coming from a one-man kitchen operation was particularly impressive (17/20).
For dessert I had white chocolate with Black Forest flavours, the cherries nicely balancing the richness of the white chocolate (14/20). Also enjoyable was milk chocolate marquise with pistachio, a classic dish with good texture (14/20). Coffee was a black capsule Nespresso.
Service was friendly and the bill came to an almost absurdly cheap £38 per person, including coffee and a glass of wine. The Crown is a one-off, with a solitary chef producing lovely, old-fashioned food with care and love. It is the kind of restaurant that we all wish we had on our doorstep. Just go there.