The Crown was taken over by chef Simon Bonwick and his family in late 2013. It is notable for the chef working alone in the kitchen, a rare phenomenon indeed and a challenging route to go. Despite this self-imposed limitation The Crown produces elaborate classical French dishes, including laboriously made stocks and sauces. Given how many well-known restaurants now buy in their stocks and use bottles of commercially supplied sauces, the devotion to making everything from scratch here is impressive and admirable. There are a few other solo chef operations, such as La Merenda in Nice and Fraiche in Birkenhead, but they are few and far between.
The dining room has a conservatory with a couple of tables to the side of the main room, and the tables here allow plenty of natural light to come in and are decorated with flowers from the garden. Service is led by India, Simon’s daughter, the third Bonwick child to head the service here over the years. Given that Simon has no less than nine children, he has a ready supply to draw on. India is an excellent hostess, possessing natural charm, and is really well suited to this front of house role.
The menu tonight began with a trio of nibbles. New to me was a mildly spiced onion with onion chutney wrapped in filo pastry. This was accompanied by trout with quail egg and caviar that was served in a beetroot pastry case, this having had lovely balance. A classic and lovely nibble here is the chickpea mousse with olive and almonds (16/20 for the nibbles). A basket of home-made bread rolls also had some excellent palmiers (puff pastry cookies).
Salcombe crab was served on a layer of avocado and was garnished with grapefruit. The crab was lovely and sweet, free of shell and the combination with the ripe avocado and pleasing balancing bitterness of the grapefruit is a classic combination. The balance between the elements was spot on, resulting in a highly enjoyable and refreshing starter (easily 17/20). Sorrel croustade with morels and confit egg yolk arrived with the slow cooked egg yolk resting on a pastry crust, surrounded by plump morels, which are just in season at the moment. The sourness of the sorrel was a nice balance to the richness of the egg, and the morels were of high quality (16/20).
Cornish turbot and Breton prawns came with asparagus and cooking juices from the pan. The cooking of the fish was very precise and the turbot, from a huge 8.5 kg fish, had lovely flavour. Most prawns that turn up in restaurants these days have travelled around the world and some can even have an unpleasant whiff of chlorine. By contrast, these Brittany prawns were a joy, having excellent natural sweetness and being cooked carefully through. This was a simple dish showcasing some top-notch produce (17/20).
Suitably runny Epoisses cheese came with the excellent home-made flapjacks that are one of Simon Bonwick’s signatures. I have never been fond of flapjacks until I tried these, which have superb texture. Raspberry and strawberry tartlet had nicely made pastry and good quality fruit, the acidity of the fruits working well with the richness of the pastry (16/20). The final dessert was rum baba with mango, coconut and lime. This is a terrific dish, the baba itself moist with syrup and having the sharpness of the lime to cut through the richness of the bread base, with the tropical fruits adding an extra flavour dimension. The overall effect was superb (18/20).
Coffee came with home-made pistachio macarons. The bill was £55 per person before tip, which was a real bargain. The Crown provides a delightful family-run experience, with charming service and top-class cooking. That such an elaborate meal can be produced by a solo chef is quite remarkable.
Further reviews: 30th Sep 2020 | 14th Feb 2020 | 26th Jul 2019 | 05th Jul 2019 | 16th Mar 2019 | 08th Mar 2019 | 07th Dec 2018 | 06th Jul 2018 | 29th Mar 2018 | 23rd Sep 2017 | 20th Jan 2017 | 09th Apr 2016 | 05th Sep 2015 | 28th Mar 2015 | 10th May 2014 | 02nd Nov 2010