Crown Inn glory
24th August 2017
Asked where to eat out in Suffolk Lesley Rawlinson fromwill invariably include our inn on her list of recommendations. Here’s why The Westleton Crown remains firmly among her top choices.
With the warm summer sun streaming across the terraces and flooding the Garden Room with light there are few better places to enjoy a lunchtime treat at The Westleton Crown. It’s a venue I feel almost magnetically drawn to when the weather closes in and a bracing walk with a cosy fireside pint is on the cards, but the joy of visiting The Crown is that it has so much to offer that there’s always a reason to call in, year round.
So, for the uninitiated let’s get our bearings; The Crown is in the centre of Westleton, a pretty village replete with village green, nestled on the edge of the RSPB Minsmere reserve. It’s less than ten minutes’ drive from the A12 at Yoxford and a perfect spot for exploring the coast with Dunwich just a five minute drive away. The Crown itself dates back to the 12th Century and was a traditional Suffolk coaching inn. Much effort has been made to retain the rustic charm and character of the building while bringing the visitor experience firmly into the 21st Century.
Part of the reason that The Crown works so well as a venue for all seasons, is that the interior and exterior spaces have been really well thought out. Firstly there’s a cosy bar and it’s a perfect spot for walkers. Dogs are welcome in the bar and, with an open fire in winter it’s a welcome place to stop for just a drink but maybe lunch or even afternoon tea, ready for the next leg of your ramble. Adjoining the bar is the Parlour; equally steeped in Suffolk charm and with its own fireplace too. Diners are away from the bustle of the bar but still wrapped in the cosiness of the ‘olde inn’.
Moving through to the Garden Room the feel is very different. It’s a beautifully light and bright room by day with a partly glass roof and huge bi-fold doors but the atmosphere is equally warm and welcoming. It’s elegant and sophisticated and segues effortlessly to the terraced garden beyond. I particularly like the garden at The Crown. Unlike some pub gardens there’s generally a chance to find a table that’s not right on top of a neighbour as the terraces wind their way up an incline, creating little pockets along the way – just big enough for a table or two.
Our recent lunchtime visit was on a bright, warm sunshiny summer day but one when the temperature remained modest and the breeze had a bit of an edge so we chose a table in the Garden Room where we could enjoy the outside views with indoor comfort. With an apple and elderflower spritzer on one side of the table and a ginger beer on the other we were ready to inspect the menu.
Lunch can be tricky. If I were out walking I’d certainly be on the hunt for soup or a sandwich and so I was pleased to see I’d have had a good choice including barbecue pulled pork wrap among the selection with all sandwiched served with coleslaw and fries. There were some light choices that would have been served as a starter or main option; pea and gem lettuce risotto, salmon and dill fish cake or toasted focaccia with artichoke, pepper, haloumi and olive tapenade but we had our eye on some even more enticing dishes. My friend was torn – two equally appealing chicken options that had her mouth watering! Roast breast of Suffolk chicken with herb gnocchi, roasted butternut squash, Savoy cabbage, wild mushrooms and Madeira cream or would it be The Crown’s own take on southern fried chicken complete with roast tomato salsa, guacamole, Cajun French fries, sour cream and a mixed baby-leaf salad? The second came out tops and what an appealing plate arrived. Zinging with colour and packed with flavour it was an instant hit and in fact could have been easily shared as it turned out to be a very generous portion. Sumptuous chicken breast, a good spicy kick from the Cajun fries and deliciously complementary dips.
The Crown's verison of southern fried chicken
My choice was easier to make. Though I hovered momentarily over the roasted courgette and sun-blushed tomato tagliatelle, and will always consider a plate of fish and chips, I was happily tempted by pan-fried cod, garlic and thyme fondant potato, braised fennel and tempura fennel with roasted red pepper and saffron coulis. It was sensational. Firm meaty cod cooked to perfection and in subtle harmony with the surrounding flavours. Bright yellow fennel was bathed in a delicious vermilion sea; every flavour and texture balanced with its neighbour.
As we had forsaken the starters we decided that we had room for desserts. Everything at The Crown is homemade – including breads, ice creams and sorbets so even the most modest selections are a special treat however we were feeling indulgent. Across the table raspberry and hazelnut praline parfait with lime shortbread, crisp meringue and raspberry coulis was possibly the prettiest dessert dish I’d seen for some time and again the combination of flavours was declared a complete hit.
I chose to complete my meal with chocolate mousse served with strawberries and strawberry sorbet and again it was just heavenly. Smooth, rich and so moreish!
I’m often asked to recommend eateries to friends and while there’s always a great variety to choose from, depending on their preferences and occasion, invariably The Crown makes it onto to my list for them. Head Chef James Finch always seems to have his eye perfectly on the potential of each season and always has his own way of being creative with Suffolk produce. His passion for the culinary culture of the county sings through his ever changing menu and with such a warm welcome on offer I’ll be highly recommending The Crown yet again.