By Royal Command
With direct access to Burnham Beeches, The Crown, in Farnham Royal has 'family-friendly' written all over it.
You’d perhaps be forgiven for not being well acquainted with Farnham Royal and its charms, as this small village in South Bucks is usually overshadowed by well-heeled neighbours Beaconsfield or Stoke Poges. Hidden away in thick wood on a winding country road, The Crown is a 230 year old inn that looks like something straight out of a fairytale with an ancient tree forming part of the structure, creating a pretty violet canopy in the Summer. It’s the sort of place we love on Muddy – away from the thoroughfare and a bit different, though it’s also easily accessible from the M40 and M4 and magics up plenty of parking too (well, my mother always asks, doesn’t yours?).
The pub is large and roomy and though it was quiet when we visited, I can imagine it being quite buzzy on a warmer day. Traditional log fires and exposed brickwork contrast with some attractive leather banquette seating and down-lighters but I think the design generally plays it safe and mainstream – think dark wood bistro tables and oversized clocks.
Interiors aside, however, there’s plenty of will to be a bit different, given time. Owner Ed is young and savvy, with several years of catering under his belt in London, and lots of fun ideas on the bubble, including Tikki huts complete with heaters and buzzers to call waiters (yes, and yes) and a hot-tub cinema in the star-of-the-show garden (YES!), a huge space that leads onto a field of sheep and horses.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Crown’s menu is predominantly pub classics – think pizzas, burgers, steak and ale pies and sirloin and chips, though the à la carte and Sunday menus have moments of inspiration such as the giant cous cous superfood salad, and a poached cod tagliatelle.
My boyfriend and I shared three starters for £10 (ideal for when you can’t make up your mind and good value too); fried halloumi soldiers with tomato & chilli chutney, Dorset crab toast accompanied by pickled vegetables and a Dingley Dell Scotch Egg with caramelised onion chutney, crackling and sage salt.
I regularly go for Scotch eggs – I’m classy like that! – so I consider myself an oeuf connoisseur. My entrée had all the right elements including a crispy exterior, well-seasoned pork and a runny middle. The crab toast was refreshing and cleansed the pallet but lacked the ‘toast’ texture it promised. Halloumi with sweet chilli jam was a winning combo.
For mains I ate the poached cod fillet (perfectly moist and flaky) on a bed of rich crab, samphire and cherry tomato tagliatelle, topped with crispy shallots. An unusual combination but it worked well (£16). My boyfriend tried a classic – battered fish, chips and mushy peas was crispy in all the right places and so big he could have sailed home on it.
Definitely – I’d say that this is the area where the pub excels. There’s a huuuuge garden with adventure play equipment that’s visible from the patio (so no need for parents to move!) and backs onto the beautiful Burnham Beeches wood, ideal for a lovely long walk and then a leisurely lunch. In the summer the outdoor area comes alive with live music every last Sunday of the month (first one this April) and Family Fun Days with bouncy castles, live music, inflatable hungry hippos game, popcorn and candy floss machines.
OUT & ABOUT
Need you go further than Burnham Beeches? Oh, OK then. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, the 5 star luxury country club and hotel Stoke Park and its 4 star neighbour Stoke Place are just down the road. Beaconsfield is your closest major town for shopping, but you’re very close to the M4 here so you can happily carve your way into Berks too. You’re pretty close to Bekonscot Model Village if your kids are particularly difficult to exhaust.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: First and foremost, families. There’s a kids menu and the garden has just opened for Spring/Summer so if you see the sun shine, head down there.
Not for: Gastro-pubbers. The interior is mainstream with its oversized clocks and wall cutlery art, and the food, though good, isn’t competing for a Bib Gourmand any time soon.
The damage: Perhaps a shave under average – £12.75 for burgers and fish n chips seemed very good value. Pizzas will set you back £8.75 – 12.25 and the most expensive dish on the menu, the 7oz steak, comes in at £25. Roasts are around £14-15.
Open: Monday – Thursday 8am-12am; Friday & Saturday 8am-1am Sunday 10am-10pm
The Crown Inn, Crown Lane, Farnham Royal, Bucks SL2 3SQ. Tel: 01753 646700. crowninnpub.co.uk