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The Angel, Long Crendon

The Angel in Long Crendon has a big reputation for food. Will five courses and a vat of wine win over Muddy's Kerry Potter?

The Angel in Long Crendon, Bucks invited us down for a five-course Italian tasting menu and wine evening. It was a “Sì” from Muddy’s very own little angel, Kerry Potter.

 

THE LOWDOWN

This 16th century former coaching inn has been renowned for its modern British food, created by chef/owner Trevor Bosch, for many years. My parents live close by and we’ve had various family Christmas Eve dinners and big birthday meals here for over the last couple of decades. In the heart of the chichi, picture-perfect village of Long Crendon, it looks like a classic country pub from the outside but it’s actually a fine dining restaurant with rooms. As such, it attracts a mixture of genteel locals (you spot a lot of baby boomers treating their millennial offspring), plus couples or business people passing by who’ve been tipped off about its foodie reputation. I went along with my very own baby boomer mother – although these days I can only pass as a millennial in very low light. OK, total darkness.

THE VIBE

The low-beamed bar is titchy but cosy, crowded with leather sofas around an inglenook fireplace. A pint, pork scratchings and live football spot it most definitely is not, rather the backdrop for an aperitif-sipping interlude before you head through to your table. The dining area is a series of linked rooms, with an airy conservatory at the back and various nooks and crannies. The décor won’t be troubling either the pages of Living Etc or your Instagram feed but the older, well-heeled crowd don’t show any signs of wanting to chuck out the chintz, so I guess if it ain’t broken… And to be fair, you come here for impeccable cooking rather than groovy chairs.

A note on the service: it can be variable. On the night I visited, it was enthusiastic but slightly slow – I think they were hampered by attempting to serve every table each course of the Italian set menu at exactly the same time. And on other occasions some of the young servers have struggled with basics such as opening a bottle of wine. That said, on the majority of times it’s been brilliant and manager Ashley is a real pro.

PILLOW TALK

There are five B&B rooms, all en suite, above the pub. Again the décor isn’t to my personal taste but if you live locally and want to outsource hosting the in-laws, they’re worth a look I’d say. And you’re guaranteed a rocking cooked breakfast the next day. Singles are £85 and doubles £125.

SCOFF & QUAFF

OK, let’s get down the business – The Angel’s shiny halo comes courtesy of the food after all. And what food it is. It’s known for its superlative seafood dishes (ironically, given you couldn’t be further from the coast in this neck of the woods) and I’m also a big, increasingly fat fan of their artfully arranged puddings – I’ve ended several evenings here face down in the house special dessert, chocolate extravaganza The Fallen Angel.

But we headed for the Med this time round for an evening of Italian cuisine, one of the restaurant’s regular themed nights. The sitting started at 7pm but despite my initial fears, each party had their own table so you didn’t have to sit with strangers and make small talk about pasta (I’m a grumpy sod after a long day at work). Each of the five courses came matched with booze, the wine courtesy of Stan from Milton Sandford, a Reading fine wine merchants, and the aperitifs and digestifs via Silvia Blasoni from Tosolini distillery in Fruili, north-east Italy; both of whom wandered between the tables to talk us through each drink.

From the mushroom arancini canapés through to the Amalfi lemon tart, the food was bellissimo. We also ploughed through a starter of burrata, roasted beetroot and prosciutto starter, exquisite crab ravioli in crayfish and basil broth, and a meltingly tender braised short rib of beef with Spring baby vegetables. Quite frankly, the only other places around this part of our ‘hood where you’ll find cooking at this level is The Pointer in Brill, The Nut Tree in Murcott, The Mash Inn in Radnage or, if you’re feeling flush, Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir. It really is that good. What’s more, the portions were perfectly calibrated so we managed to nail all five courses without needing to resort to elasticated trousers.

A thumbs up emoji for the booze too. We kicked off with spritzes made with an herbal liqueur called Amaro, Prosecco, and ginger ale which made an interesting change from my usual Aperol spritz, through Soave (no longer naff, apparently) to Tuscan Chardonnay to a hearty red with the beef, to a selection of five digestifs (Each! Yikes!). My mum was the designated driver and I could only sip at my limoncello thanks to a school run and 9am meeting looming the next morning, but the final salary pensioners seated all around certainly revelled in, um, educating themselves about the intricacies of Italian alcohol varieties.

OUT & ABOUT

If you like ogling rich people’s fairytale thatched cottages (not a euphemism) then a gentle stroll around Long Crendon village will hit the spot. Children in tow? It’s worth noting there’s a playground a couple of minutes down the road in the village centre (the pub itself only has a small terrace) or take a 10 minute drive up to Brill, where you can run up and down the hills of the village’s common land, which is presided over by an historic windmill. Alternatively, head five minutes in the other direction for a mooch around the pretty market town of Thame. You could also build in a visit to The Angel if you’re visiting Waddesdon Manor (15 minutes away).

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Foodies will be in seventh heaven. And it’s wonderfully treat-y if you’ve got a special family gathering or visiting parents/ in-laws to impress. It’s close to the M40, so a good meeting point if you’re catching up with friends from Oxford, London or the Midlands. Or if you’re in the market for a quiet date night venue with indulgent food and drink, this is your place.

Not for: Girls’ nights out – I somehow can’t imagine lining up flaming sambucas on the bar. The ambience is very much refined rustic rather than high glam. It’s not my first choice to take my primary school age children either – although they’ve always been very welcome at family meals here in the past (and they’ll cook smaller portions of the menu mains for them), The Angel is more of a grown-up choice. And given that the majority of the clientele are older people and the tables are packed in to a bijou space, if you have the kind of toddlers who pinball off walls or one of those massive tank-like pushchairs, you might not feel 100 percent relaxed. Plus the restaurant is on the main road through the village and there’s very little outdoor space for them to let off steam.

 The damage: The Italian wine dinner was £50 per head, including all food and drink, which was very good value. À la carte dining, however, is more expensive than other pub-restaurants in the area, as you’d expect for food of this quality. Dinner mains range from £15.50 up to a hefty £34.50 for fillet beef, with starters and desserts around £7-£8. My advice would be to head down for a sneaky midweek lunch – at £14.95 for two courses or £19.95 for three, the set menu is excellent value.

The Angel, 47 Bicester Rd, Long Crendon, Aylesbury HP18 9EE. Tel: 01844 208268.

 

Words: Kerry Potter

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