Having being amongst those to experience The Crown Inn at Hallow’s first ever meringue making masterclass, I was intrigued when invited to go back and sample some dishes from their new menu just a few weeks later. My usual dining partner (aka Mr R) was unable to join me this time, so I took one of my best buddies along instead.
A preview evening had been organised to showcase The Crown’s new menu which was being launched the following day (on 22nd September), and was created by new head chef Chris Monk, who I’d met once previously in the kitchen at Le Champignon Sauvage. The 5 course tasting menu offered a selection of dishes from the new menu and was priced at a very reasonable £29.95 per person (including a glass of prosecco on arrival). A wine flight to accompany each course was also available for an additional £20 per person. Sadly we were both driving, so didn’t get to try any of the wine this time.
After sharing some very tasty home baked focaccia, which we smeared with the irresistibly whipped creamy butter, we then got started on our caramelised onion mousse with crispy chicken skin. There was a vegetarian alternative for each course, the first one simply being without the chicken skin. Both options included the onion mousse which sat on top of a Sauternes (a French sweet wine) jelly. Although we felt it to be a little different to have an amuse bouche served in a pub / restaurant, it was enjoyable, with the mousse being the highlight of the dish for me.
There was a choice of truffled guinea fowl terrine or scorched mackerel to start, so we picked one of each (the vegetarian option was preserved lemon, agnolotti pasta, cavolo nero and ricotta). Having looked at the new Autumn menu on The Crown’s website, both of these dishes are listed (there doesn’t currently appear to be a vegetarian starter option). My choice was the mackerel; a colourful plate with vibrant dollops of beetroot and goats curd. The fish was cooked to perfection for me, although I felt the portion size was a little on the large side considering it was a starter, and I was unable to clear my plate for this reason.
Across the table was the terrine; something I wouldn’t usually order for myself, but after tasting I instantly had starter envy. The terrine was accompanied by pickled mushrooms, roasted garlic and a sprinkling of pine nuts. The meat was very well seasoned and the texture was not too fatty – a dish I would definitely recommend or chose for myself on a return visit.
Again my friend and I chose one of each of the main course options (the alternative vegetarian option was wild mushroom and truffle pithivier, Tunworth cheese fondue and grilled broccoli). I went for the Confit escalope of sea reared trout. This was my favourite dish of the evening as I loved the simplicity and freshness of the ingredients on this plate. I may be wrong but thought an ‘escalope’ was usually coated and fried. I would describe the fish served to be more like a fillet. It was placed beautifully on top of a flavoursome broth, padded out with samphire, peas and fresh farfalle pasta – absolutely delicious. Although I didn’t try the ale braised beef cheek (served with smoked potatoes and charred onions), the pretty dish with colours that screamed ‘Autumn’ was polished off by my friend.
The fourth course was the lemon curd with lime granite. This was a little too intense and tart for both of us at first taste. We felt that in the form of a sorbet, this could have possibly been a more refreshing palette cleanser in between courses. Dessert was a choice of Bramley apple soufflé or dark chocolate tart, so naturally we ordered one of each.
In front of me was a silky, thick slab of chocolate which looked wonderful. It came with a crème fraiche sorbet which did help balance the deepness of the chocolate flavour, but I’m afraid the portion was just too much for me to finish. The soufflé was a real showstopper (also listed on the Autumn menu), it looked like a giant chef’s hat. It’s always a delight to see a perfectly risen soufflé, and this one was precisely that. My dinner date and I both got a hint of the apple when we opened it up, but thought the flavour was maybe a little on the subtle side. That salted caramel ice cream though, was just incredible.
The evening concluded with a round of coffee and petit fours. As I am unable to drink coffee it would have been good to see another choice, maybe some herbal teas on offer or even a decaffeinated coffee as an alternative. Our petit fours came in the form of 2 Canelés (a classic French pastry from the region of Bordeaux).
After nattering away all night and before leaving, I spotted Cheltenham based food blogger Lucienne Thompson (nee Simpson) was sitting at the table next to us. What a pleasure it was to finally meet Lucienne and her husband (who was lucky enough not to be driving, and therefore able to try ALL of the wine flights). Keep an eye out on her blog for her review of the evening.
There are plans to hold tasting menu evenings every quarter just ahead of the launch of each new seasonal menu. The Crown Inn are also going to be offering a special tasting menu for New Year’s Eve – look out for details on their website. Also keep an eye out on the ‘what’s on‘ section of the site for a closed-loop cocktail masterclass as well as Christmas meringue and wreath making masterclasses. We loved the meringue making masterclass with Elle Townsend!
Cost: £29.95 (evening tasting menu only)
The Crown Inn at Hallow’s Menus
Worcester, Worcestershire, United Kingdom – last visited in September 2017
Food Hygiene rating – 5/5 very good – last inspected 6th October 2017
*Although our dinner and drinks were complimentary, as ever my words and photos are my own. I plan to return to The Crown Inn again very soon with Mr R to sample the lunch menu and at our own cost. Thank you again to The Crown Inn, Chris Monk and to the whole team for inviting and hosting us during the course of the preview evening.