Sunday 16 February 2014

The Crown, Chiddingfold, Surrey

An extraordinarily well-preserved ancient inn, The Crown is first and foremost a timepiece. Although the fine old Tudor facade can be marred by the cars parked in front, the immaculate interior might take your breath away. This venerable old pub has a succession of beautifully atmospheric rooms with battered beamed ceilings, lead-paned windows, dark wooden panelling, faded old paintings and suitably distinguished furniture. If anything, it is all too perfect - it can feel like you have stumbled into a posh period drama set. Even the punters seem to dress in conservative garb in sober colours.

If you are with small children, it's worth trying to book the round table tucked away in its own room next to a small playroom with toys and a TV set. As the food can take a long time to come on a Sunday lunchtime, this playroom can prove very useful.  Although they can get a bit stressed, the black shirted waiting staff are quite attentive and helpful.  The safe Sunday lunch menu features several roasts, plus tried and tested dishes, such as fish and chips or mussels (£13.50) in cider with leeks and bacon (served in a massive black pot). The steak and mutton pie (£13), accompanied by thick, creamy and satisfying mash, ribbons of cabbage, carrots and gravy, is good and goes well with a smooth pint of Sussex real ale. The pastry is soft and delicious, while the steak is mouthwateringly rich.  However, it is a pretty salty dish and there isn't a great deal of meat.  If you want protein, the roast pork (£14) comes with two large slabs of meat, crackling, a fine selection of vegetables and roast potatoes, while the homemade beef burger (£11) is massive. Whichever main you opt for, a large side dish of creamy cauliflower cheese is well worth £3. Moreover, the kids menu (a good selection across three courses for £7.50) is a bargain - the fish, chips and peas are particularly well done. The Crown does decent grub in a setting worthy of the National Trust.  8/10