Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Crown, Bishops Waltham, 26th March 2015

For our March outing we elected to return to The Crown Inn in Bishops Waltham, to re-assess the place after our earlier visit in 2013, despite our vow at that time never to return to the Crown for another pie.  That vow might have been made rather hastily, as it overlooked a number of important factors such as the fact that this is for us a local pub on our doorstep, and it serves good ale at reasonable prices. There have been several management changes at the Crown since our last visit, so we felt it was worth a re-appraisal (and we were feeling lazy and couldn't be bothered to venture any further a field).

So Doug, Joe, Nick, Si, Trev, Lord North & Tall Paul once more ventured into the cosy interior of the Crown, hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.

On arrival we found that there weren't many other customers there, so we immediately went to the bar to sample the ales.

This being a Fullers pub there was a good selection of Fullers ales available: London Pride, Seafarers, and HSB. The guest ale was St Austell's Proper Job (4.5%), which was a rather good IPA. In fact we sampled all the ales and found that they were all rather good, just as on our previous visit. They do know how to serve a good ale here.

When Doug was arranging this visit he asked the chef to lay on a good pie for us, and he did us proud. We had a Steak & Oyster Pie (otherwise known as a Pauper's Pie) served with Broccoli and Mash.

The pies were individual pies encased in a delicious short crust pastry, and filled with a very tasty mix of steak, whole oysters, and sauce. The steak was in big chunks, and very tender. The oysters added a lovely salty tang. The filling was just the right consistency. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, and the mash was smooth & creamy.  Extra gravy was served separately, in a jug, just as it should be. The portion size was just right - not too big and not too small. We'd never had a Steak & Oyster Pie before, and we had to admit that this was a very good pie. Near perfect in fact.

Unlike on our previous visit, the service was very good this time, with fresh drinks being brought to our table by the very friendly and helpful waitress. Somehow, we felt that the ambience here was much better than on our prevous visit, although actually, nothing much had changed. There's still a very pleasant period atmosphere to the place, the facilities are very clean, there's plenty of comfortable seating, not too many distractions like canned music or TVs, and (this time) very pleasant staff who gave good service. As far as value-for-money is concerned, even the pie was slightly cheaper this time (£11.95 vs £12.50), and the beer has always been quite good value.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):

  • Pastry  4.41
  • Filling  4.34
  • Beer  4.14
  • Ambience  4.12
  • Value for money  3.58
  • Total  20.58
What a difference 2 years and several management changes make! 20.58 is a respectable score which puts The Crown in 2nd place in our rankings of pubs visited so far this year. Of course, the more attentive reader will spot that we've only visited 2 pubs so far this year, but still, credit where credit is due. The score in 2013 was only 16.71 so this year's score of 20.58 represents a huge improvement, and definitely means that the Crown now comes with our formal seal of approval.

PS Oysters are alleged to have aphrodisiac qualities. Unfortunately on this visit these (if they exist at all) were undone by the quantity of ale consumed.

PPS At the time of writing, the Steak and Oyster Pie is still on the menu. Grab it while you can.