One year since new owners revamped The Crown, Sydenham, it's back on the gastropub menu.
Is there anything more fun than reviewing a pub that’s been down on its luck but is now revamped, newly loved with young owners? Not in my book!
The Crown at Sydenham is mid Oxon/Bucks border land – think close to Thame, Postcombe (therefore handy if you’re near J6 of the M40 and need a bit stop) and Chinnor. I live around these ere parts and can tell you its not an area particularly blessed with superior pubs, so the rebirth of The Crown with its painted brick and pretty flower baskets, opposite the 12th century village church in this genteel village, is exciting.
It’s very much a local, village vibe in here – not pretentious, definitely friendly and also welcoming to kids. The decor within the 16th century inn has been updated since new owners Pippa and Will (also head chef) took it over last October, with new tables and chairs, fun style accents like the giant spoon and fork on the walls and a tasteful lick of paint, but it’s not trying too hard to impress, and I like that. It’s not a massive space – just the bar in front of you as you walk into the pub and then to the right some snug-style seating and then more restaurant-style tables, so it won’t take much for it to feel buzzy and full.
The beer garden out the back is well kept with plenty of seating and some gorgeous flowers and baskets – ideal for playing Oxfordshire pub game Aunt Sally. Don’t know it? Basically players throw a wooden baton at a wooden ‘dolly’, knocking it off a 3ft high post – all, er, highly technical, and probably increasing levels of fun as the beer’s knocked down. There’s actually an official Aunt Sally ‘League’ in Spring and Summer that The Crown compete in, plus there are specialist gin evenings and even a ‘Sydfest’ of BBQ, beer and live music – so you can see the community, fun element the owners are working hard to create.
My sense of The Crown is that they’re not trying to be too fancy pants – it’s a local gastropub and they want to do the basics well, so you can expect crowdpleasers like rib eye steak, pan-fried salmon fillets and The Crown Burger, topped with streaky bacon, Applewood smoked cheese, in a toasted brioche bun with fries and relish – this burger totally felled my youngest child, below, who had to lie down under the table half way through.
I had it too, and it was absolutely delicious, I left not the tinest mark on the plate. For the more adventurous the kitchen delivers the likes of Galician style fish stew, juniper and rosemary marinated loin of venison, roasted vegetable & mixed bean tagine with saffron cous cous. Also plenty of bar nibbles if you’re not feeling the love for a huge main course too.
No doubt that it’s all beautifully presented and well delivered. My daughter’s cheese pasta looked good enough for me to nick.
And dessert was very pretty indeed – a chocolatey, creamy, raspberry concoction that we all shared.
OUT & ABOUT
If you’re planning to try The Crown on the weekend, bring your binoculars and you might see the lesser spotted Fiona Bruce in the village – she has a second home here. Sydenham is mere minutes from the Chilterns so there’s loads of walking potential – Christmas Common is probably the best starting point. If you’re looking to walk amongst buildings rather than woodland, Thame will offer a pleasant hour or so, and other pretty villages in the area include Haddenham (it has a great cafe, Little Italy and a gorgeous setting of duck pond and church that’s long been plundered by Midsomer Murders) and Long Crendon. John Lewis in High Wycombe is a 15 minute drive and Hughenden Manor, Disraeli’s old pad now run by the National Trust, is about the same.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Locals, families, relaxed groups of friends, casual drinkers and bar food nibblers. Veggies and kids both well catered for.
Not for: Day-trippers expecting stupendous country views, or expansive grounds. Small wriggly children may struggle with the compact interior and exterior space. Some may feel that the garden area could be further glammed up.
££: Good value. A Crown Burger is £12.50 (less expensive than Byron!), a rib eye steak is £21ish, Sunday lunches are between £13.95 for pork going up to £15.95 for beef.
The Crown Inn, Sydenham Road, Sydenham, Oxon. Tel: 01844 351634. crownsydenham.com