The Crown at Burchetts Green features a lone chef working in the small kitchen. Simon Bonwick worked at a number of high-end places in his youth before moving to pub cooking, such as at the Three Tuns in Henley. The Crown is where he has settled down, starting the week with an empty fridge, purchasing high-grade produce and producing labour-intensive classical sauces despite having no junior chefs to share the work. He took over the pub in late 2013 and a well-deserved Michelin star followed in 2017. His son Dean, part of an extensive family, runs the front of house.
A trio of nibbles comprised smoked eel with horseradish and a beer jelly, crab with beetroot and apple, and little chickpea tartlets with lemon, almond and olives. These were all good, the chickpea one being especially successful (15/20). Wild halibut came with a base of potato using potatoes that had actually been buried in the grounds of the pub. The fish came with a large Breton prawn, a little grapefruit and a bouillabaisse sauce. The fish and shellfish was carefully cooked and the sauce was excellent, sauces being a particular strength of the chef here (easily 15/20).
Kent salt marsh lamb was accompanied with a gloriously intense meat and deeply reduced red wine sauce and also a spectacular sauce Paloise with lovely piquancy; this is similar to a Bearnaise sauce but with mint instead of tarragon. On the side were lovely savoury Lyonnais tartlets with particularly delicate pastry (comfortably 17/20).
Raspberry and cherry Bavarois was lovely, the fruit having excellent flavour and the texture of the bavarois lovely (16/20). Canelés with coconut ice cream were also very good, with lovely texture that avoided the overly-hard outside that is often a problem with these petit fours. Pistachio macarons were very high quality, made from scratch in the kitchen, as were chocolate truffles.
Service was charming, and the bill came to an absurdly low £29 a head. If you ordered from the a la carte menu and shared a modest bottle of wine from the list then a typical cost per person might be £55 a head. This is an absolute steal for food of this quality. The Crown is a delight, and the antithesis of the well-financed, over-marketed restaurants that infest London these days. Here you get real food, served with skill and passion.