Despite having only unveiled both new owners and a total refurbishment at the start of this year, the “new” Old Crown feels like a long-established stalwart of the Bath contemporary food scene, from ambience (read all about it here) to menus via that all-important warm welcome. So, were we keen to revisit one of Bath’s most amenable contemporary hostelries to sample the recent additions to their seasonal, locally-sourced, ever-changing menu? Bring. It. On!
It being a Wednesday n’all, it was Burger Night at the Old Crown on the night we visited. But after much deliberation, we opted to plunder the ‘formal’ a la carte dinner menu in search of the Really Good Grub that’s earned this relative new kid on the merrymaking block a solid reputation for stylish satiation. Not that OC classics (boisterous burgers; super steaks; beer battered fish with chunky chips; etc) serve as any kind of also-ran here – far from it: such are the foundations that gastropub greatness is built on. But y’know, sometimes – and particularly at this time of the year – one wants one’s comfort food fixes to not only soothe the soul, but reinvigorate the senses too. And sensual reinvigoration is what we most certainly got.
Our table of four started off with a neat, chic tumble of very tender salt and pepper squid, a serving of chunky, refreshingly non-gelatinous ham hock terrine and two portions of luscious, perfectly mantecato wild mushroom risotto striped with a neat line of paprika that easily proved its worth as a piquant addition to the whole rich, creamy melange rather than a mere decorative flourish. Yum, yum and thrice yum, and – with all three dishes hovering around the £6 mark – triply thrifty, too.
For mains, for me, the really good, really moist, really proper Chicken Supreme (“proper” because all too many contemporary kitchens fail to realise that, in order to earn official classification as ‘supreme’, the chicken breast must have the wing bone attached, as this one did) served with gently spicy chorizo patatas bravas, a refreshing parsley and garlic pesto and a glamorous Parma ham crisp that brought all manner of mediterranean inspirations together in perfect harmony. Elsewhere on our table, sticky, slow-roasted pork belly served with a pillow of sweet potato mash, a generous handful of caramelised parsnips and a tangle of deeply earthy cavolo nero that was, to my mind, the ultimate translation of the much-misunderstood umami hit. Meanwhile, confit duck leg featuring flesh so soft it almost melted on the fork served with a rich bean cassoulet and creamy but distinctly non-cloying dauphinoise made me imagine that, if Auguste Escoffier gave the recipes for each of the three elements of this dish to Michel Roux Jr and told him to work a bit of contemporary magic on it all, this particular plateful would be the result. And, to complete our four-dish foray, super-fresh pan-fried hake with crushed new potatoes, velvety wilted spinach and tickly shards of samphire that tasted of the surf, all generously lubricated with lemon and parsley butter – now that’s what I call a very stylish fish supper indeed.
As was the case with starter prices, the cost for the quality on offer makes dining at the Old Crown an affordable midweek treat, with main courses averaging around £13.50-£16… which kinda means you’re obliged to have a pudding, which we of course did: faultless apple crumble, and banana and hazelnut parfait teamed with a shard of peanut brittle that inspired lively debate regarding whether it contained dark chocolate too – which it didn’t; debate over. And if you’ve been debating whether or not to follow our lead and visit the Old Crown any time soon, that squabble should now be over too.