Chris Slaughter moved frrom these premises in March 2011 to The Crown at Amersham (and as of late 2011 to Sands End in Fulham), so the notes below should be treated with the appropriate level of caution given the chef change. The new chef is Simon Bonwick.
The Crown is a country pub a few miles from Maidenhead, taken over in Easter 2010 by chef Chris Slaughter and his business partner Sam Lancaster. They previously ran a restaurant in Newcastle called Grainger Rooms, which was awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin. The pub itself is unprepossessing, serving a maximum of 34 (plus some seats in the garden in good weather) with its plain wooden tables and chipped crockery, but the key here is the focus on ingredients: many of the vegetables served are grown in the pub garden, for example. Meat was supplied by Vicars Game (who also supply the Harwood Arms), and fish was from Cornwall, while the mushrooms served are actually foraged locally by the chef. Starters are mostly £5, main courses just £10 - £15, and desserts are all a fiver. Chris Slaughter is the only chef in the kitchen (assisted at times by a kitchen porter).
Bread is made from scratch, a choice of brown slices or white bread with nettles, both served warm. The crust was good and the texture fine, but both the breads badly needed salt; there was at least some salt available on the table (14/20). There is a short, all French, wine list. Choices include Haut Montlong Bergerac 2007 at £17 for a wine that costs around £9 retail, Madiran Palatum 1998 at £41 for a wine that sells for around £17 in the shops, up to Les Fairendes Chassagne Montrachet 2007, listed at £89 for a wine that will set you back around £33 retail.
I started with air-dried ham that had been dried in the basement of the pub. This was served with raisins, salad leaves and parsnip, with a little yellow beetroot, the leaves with a nice dressing; the ham had good flavour, though some pieces were a fraction on the chewy side (14/20). Skate with parsnip and celeriac puree and halzelnut brown butter sauce was very well executed, the skate carefully cooked and the puree both having good texture and tasting properly of its constituent parts; this was well seasoned (15/20).
My main course was Muntjac deer, served with deer sausage and a side-dish of red cabbage, with a reduction of the cooking juices flavoured with thyme and juniper, with a little mash on the side. The deer was very carefully cooked, and the sausage element had deep flavour, while the reduction was genuinely classy, intense but not over-reduced (easily 15/20).
Plaice served on the bone was superbly cooked, roasted and served with purple sprouting broccoli grown in the pub garden. The plaice was terrific, and the only reason I am scoring this dish as low as 15/20 was that the broccoli was under-cooked.
Honeycomb ice-cream was very nicely made, though the honeycomb flavour could have come across more strongly (14/20). My apple crumble was very good, served with good custard and with nicely cooked apples; the crumble itself was a little thick in texture, but the taste of the crumble was good (15/20).
Service was friendly and capable throughout. This was a real surprise to me, as I had few expectations, yet the cooking was very competent and used high quality ingredients. When you consider the very low prices here, this is a little gem.