Burston: The Crown
The landlord may have cooked for rock'n'roll royalty including Bruce Springsteen and U2, but SARAH BREALEY visits a country pub where the food is the real star.
There aren't too many village pubs where the landlord has cooked for Bruce Springsteen and U2. But at the Burston Crown it is Steve Kembery's food that has the star factor.
From pub favourites like steak and kidney pie to more glamorous specials such as pan-seared salmon with basil cream and even the chocolates that come with the bill, all the food is home-made and extremely tasty.
Add in a building with low timbered ceilings, cosy rooms and a real fire in a huge fireplace and you can see why the pub is such a popular destination.
There is a good selection of wines, starting from �15 a bottle, as well as freshly-ground coffee and other hot drinks. Real ales include Greene King Abbot (at a slightly pricey �3.50 a pint) and Adnams bitter, as well as more unusual guest beers.
We started with two starters from the specials board. Jerusalem artichoke soup was subtle in flavour – which is probably to be expected from Jerusalem artichokes – but quite pleasing. Much more punchy was peppered mackerel, which was served hot. It had been cured but was still beautifully moist. It came with some salad leaves and walnut and horseradish cream. This last accompaniment was nice in itself, but caused slight irritation by being spread over the plate and then the mackerel placed on top of it. Why not serve it in a dollop or little dish on the side and let the diner choose how to combine the two?
Moving on to main courses, I had spinach and cream cheese pancake baked with cheese on top, which does not sound a dish to set the world alight but was better than I expected, and nicely garlicky.
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The Real Ale Drinker had pigeon breasts with blackberry and port sauce. He described them as rich, tender and tasty. He told me at least his three times how good his boulangere potatoes were – layers of wafer-thin slices, slowly baked, crispy on top and meltingly soft in the middle.
Vegetables were very good. I sometimes get irritated with places that put butter on the vegetables – they are sup-posed to be the one healthy thing I eat, for goodness' sake, so let's not ruin it – but I forgave the Crown.
The cauliflower had a bit of butter on, the broccoli was plain, the carrots were soft and anointed with butter and perhaps a touch of honey, and the green beans had an addictive seasoning of garlic butter to make them the vegetable version of garlic bread, and just as tasty. The beans still had a bit of crunch to them too, suggesting they had not been frozen.
A baked chocolate mousse was a new one on me. You can bake Elizabeth David's recipe for chocolate mousse, but that makes a kind of souffle, which is served hot. This was cold, thick and creamy – more of a chocolate pot (a rich creamy chocolate dessert with egg yolks but no beaten egg whites) – than a chocolate mousse if you ask me, but perhaps we are splitting hairs now. It came with a couple of chunky spiced biscuits to provide a nice contrast of textures. I liked the idea of Seville orange tart – a seasonal twist on the classic lemon tart. It was creamy and tangy in the same way as the best lemon tarts, and came with some vanilla creme fraiche and orange zest. The only problem was that I would have liked it bigger.
I like to think that the U2 song Lemon might have been inspired by one of Steve's lemon tarts. Or perhaps the Seville orange version was 'Even better than the real thing'. To give U2 the last word, it might not be their best-known song, but the one that fits best is 'Magnificent'.
l Open: Mon-Sat 12pm-2pm/6.30pm-9pm, Sun 12pm-4pm
l Prices: A La Carte menu starters from �5, mains from �12.50, desserts
l Vegetarian options: Yes
l Wheelchair access: Yes