I have to admit to being a little torn over my visit to this week’s Sunday lunch venue, The Crown Inn at Elton.
I guess it comes down to what makes a good meal out?
Well, it has to be the overall experience - and to different degrees the food, service, ambiance, the venue and the setting all play their part.
So in reverse order, the venue. It is a beautiful country pub (with rooms) renowned for its food and drink with a very good chef at the helm.
It is stone-built with a thatched roof, the bar area is olde worlde and dark, while the main restaurant area at the rear is relatively modern in comparison, has lots of glass and is very light and airy. A perfect combination.
I have been several times in the past and have never left disappointed.
The setting, at the heart of a quaint village, in the shade of a huge tree is the stuff postcards are made of.
We were a few minutes early for our table but were shown through, seated and left with our menus. So far so good.
The bar area was reasonably busy but the restaurant had a couple of tables of two occupied and as the afternoon progressed two larger groups followed.
Drinks and food orders were a little slow but nothing to give cause for concern, we thought.
And certainly the waiting staff weren’t letting on. They appeared on top of things, totally unflustered.
So here is where the overall experience comes in; when I book a table for 2pm, it is because I want to eat at about 2pm... not 3pm.
Now I know we aren’t talking about a carvery, and I didn’t expect to be in and out in 10 minutes flat. But waiting an hour from sitting down to lifting my knife and fork is just not on ( and it didn’t look like we were the only ones).
After that the food needs to be something special; and here is the conundrum: it really was!
The Sunday lunch menu was made up of soup, pate, salad and scampi tails for starters, but having seen one or two plates on tables I decided to go straight for the main course (£16.95), and a choice of beef, pork or chicken, fishcakes or a lentil and vegetable hotpot.
So, to the beef - or in this case Willowbrook Farm Longhorn beef cooked nice and pink as requested. Incredibly tender and a delight to eat.
The roast potatoes cooked in beef dripping were golden and crisp with a fluffy soft centre and a great taste - no doubt from the dripping.
The gravy was more than decent, while the Yorkshire Pudding was a joy to behold. Not only was it huge it had a fantastic flavour and was deliciously crisp in parts, slightly breadlike in others. Great for mopping up the gravy. My seasonal vegetables serving consisted of perfectly cooked carrots and sugarsnap peas and a stunningly moreish Cauliflower cheese - this from a man who usually can’t stand the stuff.
I could wax equally lyrical about the children’s version (£9.50 including ice cream for dessert) which paired the supersize Yorkshire Pudding with moist, soft pork loin, roast potatoes and gravy.
Donna went off piste with the homemade pan fried fish cakes served with a nice pea puree and a poached egg (£16.95), and was equally as impressed with the cauliflower cheese.
On any other day, this was a Sunday lunch that really stood out - but the long wait, and the lack of warning or explanation took the edge of the overall occasion.
Brad Barnes dines at The Crown Inn at Elton, tel 01832 280232 or got to www.crowninnelton.co.uk