The Crown at Burchetts Green is a family affair, with Simon Bonwick in the kitchen and his son Dean running the front of house. Another of his sons, George, will soon take over this role. Despite being used to a crowded house, with nine children in all, Mr Bonwick elects to cook on his own in the kitchen, with no other chefs to help him and not even a kitchen porter. Starting each week with an empty fridge he cooks classical French dishes, complete with labour-intensive French sauces made from scratch.
My latest meal here began with a trio of canapés. Smoked trout with prawn arrived in a little pastry case flavoured with beetroot. Duck liver parfait had deep flavour and also had a delicate pastry container, topped with a little summer truffle. Best of all was chickpea tartlet with smoked almond, lemon, black olive and shallot, a combination of flavours that works beautifully (16/20 average but more for the chickpea tartlet).
Bread was made from scratch, a choice of very good sourdough or a bacon roll with good texture and plenty of crowd-pleasing bacon flavour (17/20). The first dish of the menu was Brittany prawns with artichokes, peas, asparagus and girolles. The quality of the ingredients was what distinguished this simple dish. These days most prawns that you encounter in restaurant are farmed in exotic locations, frozen and shipped somewhere with cheap labour to be shelled and complete a world tour by the time that they arrive on your plate, generally devoid of flavour. These prawns had good natural sweetness and were complemented nicely by the excellent quality artichokes, sweet peas and asparagus, which were all from France. This was a light and refreshing summer dish (16/20).
Fillet of brill from a large 6kg fish was precisely cooked and had excellent flavour. This came on a base of leeks with a garnish of Australian summer truffles and a mustard hollandaise sauce using Meaux mustard from Pommery in France. The gentle spice of the mustard was an excellent foil for the delicate flavour of the brill, the subtle aroma of the summer truffles adding an extra flavour note (17/20).
The main course used just about every piece of a whole duck, which came from a farm near Exeter. The liver had already appeared as a parfait in one of the canapés. Now we had the roasted duck breast, which came with a duck pie made from the duck legs, along with two different sauces. One was a conventional reduction of the cooking juices, the other sauce flavoured with lime and juniper. On the side was a parmentier of lentils (rather than the usual potato hash with meat) on a base of celeriac. The duck had very good flavour and it was impressive that the pastry came out so well given the heatwave conditions (the temperature the day before was 37C and the kitchen has no air conditioning). This lime in the sauce provided a touch of acidity and there was also a base of spinach, but for me this dish was still quite rich, and perhaps another green element to provide more balance would have been beneficial. Still, this was most enjoyable and the sauce was lovely (16/20).
Saint-Marcellin cheese came with excellent buttery flapjacks, made from scratch in the kitchen. The first of two desserts was mango tart using late season Alphonso mangoes. This was just what was needed after the rich duck dish, a refreshing and aromatic dish, again with excellent pastry (17/20). Rum baba is something of a signature dessert here, and this version came with lovely summery Provencal peaches, perfectly ripe and again providing balance for the bread base of the baba, which had terrific texture, A few hazelnuts grown in the pub garden added an extra texture (18/20). Finally there were some pistachio macarons to go with coffee.
Service was charming and the bill for this lovely meal was £60 a head, a genuine bargain given the tremendous amount of effort and skill that goes into the cooking here. If you were looking for a definition of hospitality then The Crown pretty much provides it, the place exuding a genuine sense of welcome.
Further reviews: 30th Sep 2020 | 14th Feb 2020 | 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