Having only ever driven past The Crown owned by ARCC, I was intrigued when I got an invite to a re-launch event ‘to show off their delicious concept of cooking fresh, seasonal, British food’. The Crown had a previous re-launch in August 2016 following an interior and exterior refurbishment, however further to some additional changes it was now time to introduce their new chef Finn Baird (formerly of St. JOHN in London) and new manager Brajesh Kumar (formally of Lasan in Birmingham).
Less than 10 miles north-west of Worcester, the family friendly pub is located in the small village of Martley in Worcestershire. The restaurant’s ethos is to give customers a unique and delicious dining experience, using their bespoke on-site smokery to cook meats and vegetables. Produce is grown in their new kitchen garden, on-site and there’s an emphasis on the provenance of meat, fish and vegetables sourced and in cooking with the best ingredients available. Subsequently, the restaurant prides itself in offering a daily changing menu.
It took us under 30 minutes to drive to Martley from Pershore, and we had no trouble at all parking in the pub’s spacious car park located immediately off the main road. As we entered the restaurant through the bar area we noted the long tables laid for the launch party guests. It became quickly apparent that we weren’t going to be leaving hungry. We were greeted almost immediately by The Crown’s PR Manager and were offered drinks whilst people were chatting. Unfortunately I missed out on the canapes, but Mr R assured me they were delicious.
We sat at our designated table and spotted the 5 course menu on display, which was to be sampled throughout the evening. Mr R and I both agreed that the selection sounded great and we were really excited to see how the food would be executed. Co owner Robin Conway welcomed his guests, along with The Crown’s new chef and manager. Chef Finn Baird introduced himself, proudly disclosing to the group that the kitchen cooks everything from scratch, they cure their own meat and (wherever possible) do the butchery on site. He’d set us all up with high hopes about the food which was to follow.
The asparagus starter looked both vibrant and Summery. All of the ingredients were indeed fresh, of exceptional quality and put together by an accomplished chef who undoubtedly knew exactly what he wanted to achieve. The ‘crispy asparagus’ was accompanied by pea shoots, a slice of red onion and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds. Not forgetting my favourite part of the dish, the lovely green peas. This stunning dish was finished with thin slices of crumbly Single Gloucester cheese.
The fish course (beer battered hake) was a starter from ‘today’s’ daily dinner menu. The fish inside was possibly a little drier than it may have been if it were cooked to order during a normal service. Considering the kitchen was catering for 60 plus people at the same time, this option was verging on risky. However, bearing this in mind we were really impressed with just how well the hake had turned out and the beer batter was very light, yet crispy. The samphire and fennel salad was what excelled for me on this plate, and not to be deceived by the simplicity of the ingredients. Everything about the fresh and colourful, crunchy salad said ‘seaside and Summer’.
Our opportunity arose next to taste something from the ‘Smokery’. We were served a generous portion of cherry wood smoked pork belly, cooked prior in the smoker for between 4-6 hours. The meat was incredibly tender and juicy, as was the desired result of this cooking process, favoured by Chef Finn Baird. I don’t recall having ever eating crackling as good as this in a restaurant; all I needed was some mashed potato and a Yorkshire pudding and this would be the perfect Sunday lunch. I enjoyed the leeks, but felt one less would have been ample and was unable to finish them.
The plates were being taken away promptly after finishing each course, with the next arriving just minutes later. The rump of beef with rainbow chard and anchovy dressing (one of the chef’s signature dishes), was now being served. How the kitchen were able to plate up beef so beautifully pink to every single person, I have no idea. This dish provoked some discussion at our table, as our collective thoughts on the anchovy dressing varied. My opinion was slightly mixed in that with some mouthfuls it really worked for me and with others it really didn’t. Eventually it occurred to me that what I wasn’t particularly fond of was the dressing combined with the chard, however felt that it did add something interesting to the beef. I must add that the meat was remarkable in terms of quality, carving, texture and cooking.
Finally we had a taster of The Crown’s chocolate slab (made using eggs, chocolate, sugar, butter and brandy). The chef’s own take on the ‘nemesis’ cake was bitter, moist, intense and chocolatey; balanced perfectly by the homemade crème fraiche. It didn’t seem to last long on anyone’s plate.
It was clear that a painstaking amount of work went into organising and making the event a success, which was reflected in the speeches and thank yous made during the last course. The atmosphere was lively and everyone seemed to have enjoyed the food and evening, and so did Mr R and I.
After saying our goodbyes we headed to the car and bumped into Robin who was chatting to the farmer and their two resident pigs, Mary and Josephine.
*Although we were invited by The Crown by ARCC and did not pay for any of the food or drinks, I have written this blog post entirely truthfully based on the experience we had at the event. Thank you to Jess, Robin, Finn, Brajesh and the team for hosting us.
Martley, Worcestershire, United Kingdom – last visited in June 2017
Food hygiene rating – awaiting inspection
*UPDATE* Now closed – September 2017