The Crown Inn – Church Enstone – Oxfordshire
Encompassing an area across six counties, most notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, the Cotswolds includes many beautiful small towns & villages such as the tiny quintessential English village of Church Enstone. Enstone is a village and civil parish, about 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Chipping Norton & is 15 miles (24 km) north-west of Oxford. It consists of the villages of Church Enstone and Neat Enstone, with the hamlets of Chalford, Cleveley, Fulwell, Gagingwell, Lidstone and Radford.
I was invited to spend the weekend at the recently refurbished village pub The Crown Inn. Located on Mill Lane, The Crown Inn was originally built to accommodate workers who helped restore & develop the nearby St Kenelm’s Church in the late 17th Century. The Church is a short walk from The Crown. The earliest parts of St Kenelm are Norman, but it has been rebuilt in stages since the 12th century. The pub itself dates from the 17th Century but it was extended in the 20th.
The Crown Inn has recently been taken over by experienced hospitality operators Matt and Katie Beamish who are building up a portfolio of pubs in the area. In 2019 they took over The Kingham Plough from Heston Blumenthal-trained chef Emily Watkins in Kingham and The Milton Hare at Milton- under- Wychwood in 2020. Matt and Katie have refurbished all of the Inn’s shared spaces and provided a fresh outlook for the bar, restaurant and a modern upgrading of the five bedrooms.
It is rumoured that King Charles I once stayed at the Inn when he visited from Oxford, which is why it is called the Crown! The Crown Inn is an Inn-lover’s dream. It has everything you would expect to find in a traditional English country Inn with five beautiful bedrooms, low ceilings, sloping floors, wooden beams & in this region the ubiquitous honey coloured Cotswold stone walls.
When we arrived the pub was heaving with a large group of young men & women enjoying some late Saturday afternoon drinks. I was told by the manager that he had already entertained a large hunting party earlier in the day with champagne for breakfast! There has been a recent turnaround of staff including new General Manager Matt who had previously worked as assistant manager at big sister pub The Kingham Plough.
After a country walk along one of the many footpaths which surround this tiny village of golden honey stone & thatched cottages the Crowns superb rustic garden must be a wonderful sight for those with sore feet. As well as walkers The Crown Inn also welcomes spa visitors from the nearby Soho Farmhouse. The celebrity retreat is just a couple of miles away.
The Crown is an art gallery of paintings, some by the previous owner George Irvine, local & other British 20th-century artists. There were also several prints showing hunting scenes and other rural pursuits on the walls.
The whole area is suitable for exploring. Chipping Norton, the fashionable & buoyant market town, is just five miles away, as are the picturesque Tews, Great Tew and Little Tew whose thatched houses & breath – taking topiary hedges have everything you could expect from villages within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You could visit Blenheim Palace, the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill and the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough for the last three hundred years which is 7 miles away or the nearby upmarket Bicester Village if you are in need of some serious retail therapy!
My wife & I sat and enjoyed a pre meal drink in the delightful bar before taking our seats in the conservatory restaurant. The oak-panelled bar has a chic rustic vibe with a welcoming open log fire at one end and is finely decorated with a range of good quality plain wooden tables and chairs. This 17th Century stone pub bar is all about low beams, oak panels, and original flagstone floors.
I noticed several people come in from the lane, not only to eat in the restaurant but to sit and enjoy a drink with friends at the bar. It is still very much a local for the community as well as a fine place to eat. The bar stools are the perfect spot for enjoying a drink and reading the newspapers with friends.
The Crown serves a wide range of excellent ales, beers & spirits by local breweries such as Hook Norton, Cotswold Brewery & Prescott. Don’t be surprised to find locals at the bar passing the time over a couple of drinks chatting about topical events, weather & the sport!
There were a wide range of tap beers available, Cotswold Pale, St Austell Tribute, Amstel Bier, Hooky Original Cider, Aspall Draught Cyder, San Miguel, Guinness, Hooky, Prescott Brewery Hill Climb and Wye Valley Brewery Butch Bach. I opted for a pint of the local Hook Norton Brewery Hooky, a well – balanced amber ale. My wife chose a glass of Argentinian Malbec, her favourite wine!
We ate in the small conservatory extension at the rear of the pub. Olive green walls, candles on the tables & a curious arrangement of rural objects set against the walls.
Mark`s Sourdough, Tapenade & House Butter £5
Double Baked Cheese Souffle, Baby Spinach & Mustard Sauce £10
An excellent souffle, soft, tasty & warm!
Salt Pig Charcuterie, House Pickles, Gordal Olives & Sourdough £14
I settled on the Salt Pig Charcuterie Board with Pickled Chilli, Large Marcona Almonds, Mammoth Gordal Olives and sourdough bread as my starter. My board included a good variety of cured meats including Italian style Prosciutto, Salami, Spanish chorizo, Pepperoni and Saucisson sitting comfortably alongside the almonds, Peppers, Olives, Farmhouse Butter & Sourdough. I was having to be careful not to fill up too soon!
24hr Tamworth Pork Belly, Boulangere Potatoes, Market Greens, Butternut Puree & Cider Sauce £20
The pork came with a beautiful piece of crackling, which I just had to share with my wife!
Boeuf Bourguignon, Creamy Potato Mash & a side dish of Buttered Greens £22
My wife thought her dish could have come with a little more sauce & that her market greens were a little too salty!
For dessert, we were spoilt for choice but after much indecision we went for the.
Dark Chocolate Fondant & Vanilla Ice Cream £8
A wonderful warm fondant. It was absolutely delicious when the warm ice cream melted over the thick warm chocolate.
Millfeuille Berries & Chocolate Sauce £8
Wine: Los Haroldas Robles, Malbec, Argentina £33
We chose an Argentinian `Los Haroldos` Malbec wine to accompany our meal. It was the perfect choice, a classic, rich, intensely fruity wine which complimented both our Pork & Beef dishes. It was a lively wine with intense fruity flavours with ripe tannins & a long finish.
I must admit to trying some of my wife’s meal too and I thought both dishes were beautifully cooked and presented to the table.
The Crown Inn is already beginning to establish a reputation for fine dining, producing dishes which demonstrates fine culinary skills, flair & imagination. The Crowns restaurant kitchen team are guided by Spanish Head Chef Jose who tries to source as much of the fresh produce the team uses from local producers whenever possible. Most of the cheeses, eggs, fresh breads, and quality meats come from the farms and villages in the local Cotswolds region. After our meal we retreated to the bar area to enjoy a quiet coffee., which was a very pleasant space in which to end a wonderful evening. Light background music of popular tunes such as musician David Gray was pleasant but not obtrusive.
Our dining experience in the Crown was one to remember, not least because of the staff who were all exceptionally welcoming and helpful with an extensive knowledge of the menu, humour & conversation. The Award-winning food combined with the personal and attentive service helped create a superb dining experience.
We visited the Crown on a Saturday evening and most of the tables were taken. The restaurant can accommodate about 100 covers inside & outside in the garden during fine weather. The Restaurant is closed on a Sunday evening but is open between 12:00 – 15:00 at lunchtime. From Monday to Saturday the restaurant is open 12:00 – 14:30pm & 18:00 – 21:00. I would recommend you book in advance and get there early! There were no special menu boards but I would put this down to the fact the pub has only recently been taken over. I was told that the menu changes monthly following seasonal trends in produce availability. I thought that the menu was excellent and very good value for money.
All five of the rooms at The Crown are named after local hamlets & have hand-decorated name boards on the doors. Our room was the Lidstone Room which sleeps two guests in a King Double or Twin beds arrangement on the first floor up a short flight of stairs. The Lidstone had many original features such as the exposed beams, low and angled ceilings, wooden floor & was decorated in soft muted colours in a country style. It included several distinct pieces of furniture. There was a large comfortable leather chair, two bedside tables & a very useful large dressing mirror. A hospitality tray was provided with the obligatory tea/coffee making facilities and a couple of delicious freshly baked home-made cookies which made for an excellent welcome after our long journey. Fresh milk was available in a shared fridge just outside our room.
The room was very light and airy. There were views of both the garden to the rear and also front facing views into the valley. We had a super – king size plush bed with a huge number of cushions and pillows. The Lidstone came with Freeview TV, USB charging point, radio & an interesting selection of books. There were plenty of wonderfully soft pillows and a furry hot-water bottle hanging from the bathroom door! Although we have no dog, this was a dog friendly room.
Our room also had a beautifully decorated en-suite bathroom complete with both a bath and overhead shower & large comfortable bath robes. Sustainable – inspired Bramley toiletries were provided including body, shower, shampoo & conditioner products.
Breakfast was well worth getting up for too, the menu listed a wide choice of options including Greek Yogurt, Granola, Berry Compote, Smashed Avocado, Chilli Flakes, Royal or Florentine Eggs Benedict or Coriander & Poached Eggs on Toast! The choice seemed endless.
We both opted for the full English Breakfast. The two Cacklbean ‘Burford` Poached Eggs displaying a delicious, dense golden dark yolk that reminded me of the eggs that I had eaten in my youth. Two slices of Crispy Paddock Farm Back Bacon, Pork Sausage & Mushroom & Local Black Pudding served with warm toast which I was pleased to see arrived when the breakfast was served filled the plate. Accompanied with lashings of as much Hot Tea as we could handle ensured it was a great way to start our day.
So, what can you expect at The Crown Inn? I would not hesitate to recommend The Crown Inn if you are planning to visit the Cotswolds or simply passing through. Why not stop and experience their superb food and hospitality, you will not be disappointed. The overall Crown Inn experience was very enjoyable and satisfying. All of the staff whether serving at table or at the bar presented a smart, professional, friendly, and efficient service. The Crown offers excellent overnight accommodation options, superb restaurant meals and excellent table service in a wonderful location.
I simply loved the pub & restaurant.
Disclosure: My visit to The Crown Inn was courtesy of Matt & Katie Beamish for bridgetstottpr.co.uk. The views and comments expressed are as usual my own.
Did you know? Enstone is described in Lifting the Latch, a biography of a farm labourer `Old Mont` Abbott, by Sheila Stewart. For nearly 80 years, Mont Abbott lived and worked on the land near Church Enstone. It is an historical record of English village & agricultural changes.