The Crown, Cuddington
This locals' fave has had a makeover. Cue the music and a Muddy nose-around as we throw portion control to the wind.
Long a community hub in the titchy Aylesbury Vale village of Cuddington, The Crown is under new management. Muddy hunkers down for three courses (what a trooper!).
After 18 years under the previous tenant, the 17th century inn was taken over late last year by the people who run The Cross Keys in Great Missenden. The décor has been tidied up (a new wooden floor in the dining room, for instance, lighter walls and removal of risqué Victorian memorabelia from the loos) as has the menu, but the newbies are keen to keep the pub at the heart of village life so it’s been about small tweaks rather than a major revolution.
Sedate I’d say. A gaggle of elderly ladies and gents were enjoying a snifter before heading out to the village’s popular Picture House cinema. (I’d love to report they were girding their loins to see the new Fifty Shades but it was actually Churchill biopic The Darkest Hour.)
The Crown is a classic rural pub. Thatched roof? Tick. Low-beams? Tick. Tiled bar with a log fire? Tick. The long, narrow dining room to the left has rustic wooden tables and chairs and retro prints on the wall but I think the cosier, more relaxed vibe is in the centre and right, where you’re not so ‘funnelled’. If you have a party bigger than two that’s where you’d be anyway but it’s worth knowing.
SCOFF & QUAFF
My friend Anna and I wolfed down three courses in the name of research but we really didn’t need to. Portions are generous – here’s Anna’s epic halloumi, roasted red pepper and mushroom burger with sweet potato fries and red cabbage slaw. That on its own would be more than enough to be honest.
However we couldn’t resist this fritto misto to kick things off, the chef’s speciality hot crispy squid, whitebait and prawns, with lashings of harissa aioli.
I followed up with a tender, melt-in-the-mouth chargrilled sirloin steak with garlic butter, skinny (*hollow laugh*) fries, field mushroom and grilled tomato. I am a total greedy guts but could only manage half of this plateful.
That said, um, I did manage to make space for this warm chocolate brownie. (Anna, more ladylike than I, nibbled winsomely on a delicate home-made elderflower sorbet to finish). From henceforth please address all my correspondence to Mrs Creosote.
We washed it all down with a crisp white Rioja, as recommended by manager Andy when we told him we were bored of always ordering New Zealand sauv blanc.
Basically, there’s nothing fancy-pants about this food. It’s simple, unpretentious pub fayre, with lots of the meat and veg sourced from local farms – ideal for a Sunday lunch out I’d say. Also worth noting: there are surprisingly extensive separate dairy-free and gluten-free menus (not something you often see at village pubs), and the kids’ list looked good with its homemade fishfingers and local pork chipolatas and mash.
OUT & ABOUT
It was too dark and grim for us to venture outside but if you come for lunch, do find time for a pre or post-prandial stroll around this bucolic Midsomer Murders village. You can ask behind the bar for details of a 4.5 mile circular walk that takes in beautiful nearby villages Nether and Upper Winchendon. If you’re making a day of it, the indie shops of nearby market town Thame are worth a mooch and National Trust property Waddesdon Manor is a 15 minute drive away.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Sunday lunch with family/friends groups looking for a trad pub grub in a cosy, quiet setting. There’s limited outside space – no garden, just a small outdoor terrace with a smattering of tables. As such, it feels like somewhere I’d go to hunker down by the fire with a glass of red in colder months rather than my first port of call in the summer.
Nor for: Big, noisy gangs – it’s a bijou, narrow space and it’s a low-key vibe. And people with toddlers who like to run around like little loons might not find it massively relaxing – there’s nowhere for them to roam and, with the pub situated on the crossroads in the middle of the village, you’ll need to ensure they don’t leg it onto the road. It’s not a gastropub by any stretch so if you’re looking for grand foodie creds, move along.
The damage: Very much in line with similar pubs. Starters and puddings are around £7, mains from £14-£21, and children’s main courses around £6.
Words: Kerry Potter