Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Review - The Crown Social

As it was my birthday (and no I'm not telling) last Friday, the other half offered me my choice of restaurant for dinner. My choice was The Crown Social which I had heard mixed reviews of, but since we had been to The Crown at Whitebrook the same time last year, and had been very impressed I thought we should give it a go.

I was already aware that the format was 'small plates' and I was intrigued by how it might work. I kind of enjoy the 'mock tapas' that we get in this country and I enjoy sharing food and it's always how I serve when we have friends round for dinner, partly because I can get flavour in to food but rubbish at the presentation bit.

The waiter (dressed all in black like a Bobbi Brown makeup counter person) came and talked us through the idea and suggested 4 starter between 2 but didn't explain whether we should follow the same for the main course.

This comes from the menu:


'Rather than offering individual starters and main courses, the Crown Social has designed the menu for sharing. We suggest that you pass our plates amongst your friends and companions.'

To start
So we ordered as follows:
  • Cheese fondue with onion madeleines
  • Poached duck egg, rarebit topped choux bun, bĂ©arnais
  • Sardines
  • Home made black pudding, apples, watercress
What came was an unusual experience to say the least. Most succesful was probably the cheese fondue - especially since fondue is clearly made for sharing. The fondue itself was good and the madeleines were fine although the onion flavour was overpowered. The sardines were also good, fresh and grilled. The black pudding was a thin, overcooked slice and very dry with some sliced apple. Not good for a fiver! The duck egg/choux bun was very very good but completely unsuitable for sharing.

That in a nutshell was my problem with the starters. Only one of the 4 was designed with sharing in mind. The 4 plates were brought out and put into the middle of the table. We weren't provided with plates were expected to eat half a choux bun with runny poached egg then pass the plate on. Completely unsuitable for anything except long standing couples or the closest of friends!

Mains
We ordered:

  • Slow cooked lam shoulder, crisp lamb breast
  • Beef skirt steak
  • Chips
  • Buttered cabbage
The mains were much more successful and the lamb in particular was very good, soft meaty and delicious. The sides were also good, although his steak came with what I think was a fondant potato. It's never good when you are left deciphering your veg because a. it isn't obvious and b. no one has bothered to explain what you're eating.
The chips were good though.

Afters
We ordered:
  • Warm filled doughnuts, vanilla milkshake
  • Honeycomb souffle with lime sorbet
This is where we had real problems.

The doughnuts were heavy and clearly not freshly made but the fillings were tasty. It is pretty easy to please him so any pud where he isn't completely happy is worth noting.
I had the souffle which I had read very good things about elsewhere. This was pretty bad. The honeycomb was burned and inedible and the sorbet was so sour that it completely jarred with the rest of the dish. When I mentioned the burned honecomb I received a mumbled apology but when the bill came the desserts had been removed. Nothing more was said.

Service
The service was formal. Too formal for me probably and it was the only duff note at The Crown at Whitebrook where the absence of any sense of humour made me giggle like a fool every time something was placed in front of me with so much fanfare it made my ears ring.

Overall I was distinctly underwhelmed. The place is far far too expensive for so many mistakes.

The other big issue is the venue. For all the design in the world, it still looks and feels like a hotel restaurant. There's not getting away from them big industrial air-con controls and fittings that populate the less 'designed' areas. The other joy was leaving the rarefied atmosphere to be greeted by v. v. v. drunk people capering about by the taxi rank.

To be honest all of this is now completely academic since I read here that the place is closing. But I went so I reviewed. So there.

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