THE CROWN, GRANBOROUGH
We're whoppingly blessed with pubs around here and here's another corker for couples, large groups and kids.
Where would we be without our pubs? Great for a can’t-be-bothered-to-cook Sunday lunch, girly get-together, romantic night out, a relaxed gastro experience, or just a muddy-booter-at-the-end-of-a-dog walk. Here’s a new review of your delectation, a fantastic gastro pub that seems to tick almost every goddam box you may have. Kerry Potter went with her family to give it the Muddy lowdown, and here’s her verdict…
The staff at The Crown tell me no one ever seems to know where Granborough is, even people who live very close by – and I must admit that, despite living just 20 minutes away, neither did I. So for the record, it’s a small village between Buckingham and Aylesbury, 25 minutes from Milton Keynes and 20 minutes from both Waddesdon and Aylesbury. Ignorance, in this case, is certainly not bliss – I would heartily recommend firing up Google Maps and getting acquainted asap because The Crown, the village’s only pub, is well worth a visit.
It was taken over last June by the people who run The Old Thatched Inn in Adstock, a pub with a good reputation for food, and the emphasis here is now firmly on the restaurant side of the business. That said, there is something here for everyone. The building is a bit of a tardis – a trad country pub with hanging baskets and beams from the outside, but inside it’s a warren of different spaces which have been bolted on to the original building over the years.
If you just fancy a pint and watching the footy or rugby, the cosy public bar is at the front. Then there’s the bright, modern wine-bar, which was packed with groups of women enjoying a pre-lunch snifter when we visited. There’s a large child-friendly garden, with a wood-fired pizza oven operating in the summer months. And there’s a dining area which is split into two parts. We were in the large, vaulted-ceiling, modern extension that plays it safe on style with its sturdy farmhouse chairs but is nevertheless a pleasingly warm, airy space with oak beams and floorboards, and a view of the garden.
I don’t say this lightly but the service here was fantastic the day I visited – the large gaggle of young waiting staff were smiley, efficient and intuitive. So many village pubs are painfully slow to serve you and when you’re dining with impatient young children that can mean the difference between a nice lunch and an endurance test. Here, they get it just right. As soon as we were seated we were brought, unbidden, carafes of chilled tap water and later the waiter checked whether we wanted the children’s food brought with our starters or main courses.
A new trio of chefs were only three weeks into the job when we visited but they’ve clearly already hit their stride. While the menu has the usual classics – burgers, roasts, fish and chips, the cooking is a cut above your usual pub grub, and there’s also a selection of more imaginative dishes.
Speaking of which, to start I had home-cured salmon, crispy avocado and crab mayo – mainly because I wanted to find out what the heck crispy avocado was. It came in the form of deep-fried breadcrumbed balls, which you cut open to reveal the bright green inside. Must admit I wasn’t entirely convinced of the merits of warm avo but full marks for creativity – and the salmon was melt in the mouth delicious. My husband had sticky charred chicken wings with chilli and spring onion, which were pleasingly meaty. No scrawny chooks at The Crown, clearly.
He went for classic roast beef to follow, which came with roasties, red and white cabbage, carrots, cauliflower cheese and a generous swoosh of gravy, all topped off with a billowy Yorkshire. I continued slightly off piste with my main, choosing seared sea trout, Cajun spiced Israeli giant cous cous, tomato, olives and crispy squid. An interesting combo of ingredients, it was nicely done – and we ended up having a discussion about whether they’re big on Cajun spices in the Middle East (Are they?! Answers below please). The children scoffed their omelette with chips and tomato pasta with cheese, pausing only to give a big the thumbs up. Their portions were huge, so you’re in luck here if you have particularly hungry kids.
On to pudding? My raspberry and lemon posset came with a home-made basil shortbread and Rich’s triple chocolate sorbet had chunks of delicious brownie crumbled over it, both delicious. The nippers got stuck into a selection of ice creams and sorbets, with salted caramel coming up trumps. I think they have the portion sizes spot-on across all the courses – some pub lunches are so enormous, you roll out of the door, but here they were pitched just right so we could just about squeeze in three courses without feeling horribly gluttonous.
Afterwards, we had a mooch around the garden which will come into its own in the summer, when that pizza oven bursts into life – I’ll be back then for a weeknight pint and a pizza after work.
There’s a pretty walled terrace and a large, enclosed grassy area, with a climbing frame and slide – which we eventually had to drag our 5-year-old and 8-year-old off so we could head home. (They also popped out between courses – we could keep a beady eye on them from our table inside).
If your weekend outdoor exertions are a little more ambitious than hanging around climbing frames (lucky you), you might like to try the circular walk from the pub to Quainton Hill and back, for which the staff can provide directions. Be warned: it’s eight miles long, although on the plus side that means you can definitely justify those excellent three courses.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A large family gathering, a weekend family lunch, a stop-off en route to Milton Keynes or Waddesdon, a Sunday afternoon pint al fresco in the summer.
Not for: I’m scratching my head to think of anyone who wouldn’t like it here, as there’s something for everyone – two dining rooms, a child-friendly pub garden, a wine bar, a trad bar for a pint and the footy. I guess if you’re a fan of starched white tablecloths and fine dining, it wouldn’t be an obvious choice.
£££: Starters and desserts are around £6 apiece, with mains £11-£16. It’s £6 for a child’s main course (although there’s no set menu as yet so drinks and desserts are extra).
The Crown Pub & Restaurant, Winslow Road, Granborough, Buckingham MK18 3NJ. Tel: 01296 670 216, thecrowngranborough.co.uk