Tuesday, June 3, 2014
There is one thing about food and restaurants that I know to be true, we are currently going through a gastronomic renaissance, the likes this world has never seen before. And as a result, we have raised celebrity chefs up to a point where they rival A-List actors in their celebrity. When a chef like Heston Blumenthal opens a restaurant it is almost guaranteed to have no tables available for the foreseeable future. This is both good and bad for the business. In the case of The Crown pub in Bray, this is, most definitely good!
Heston already had two restaurants in Bray, The Fat Duck, which made him a star and The Hinds Head, which made him approachable. Now, he is even more accessible with The Crown.
If I'm being honest, I'm a pessimist. I don't think any restauranteur should spread themselves too thin. Thomas Keller could open a new restaurant every single day and they would be booked up in minutes. But he doesn't. He chooses to run full control of his mini-empire and as a result he is regarded as the best chef in the world. And not just by gooey eyed food bloggers like myself, but by the professionals in the kitchen. And despite all of Heston's media attention, TV shows, Waitrose gigs, etc. he still manages to produce world class food.
The Crown is a simple pub. It's not Michelin starred, it isn't particularly beautiful, it's just a nice, straightforward pub. Which was the intention. The Hinds Head is his gastropub. The Crown is Heston's version of a local. Where people from Bray and all over can come in for a pint as easy as they can come in for Fish and Chips. And what Fish and Chips they are. I have never tasted better. The batter was crispy and perfectly cooked. The fish served skin up to allow the oil to drain through the fish and not onto the plate. The chips, triple cooked of course, this is Heston after all, were bite sized beauties. The tartare sauce, exquisite and the mushy peas, the perfect example.
In fact, that is what I found when I visited The Crown. Every dish we had that afternoon was the model on which to base all other pub dishes. My wife's burger was absolutely choice. The meat beautifully tender, the brioche the perfect wrapping for this gorgeous gift.
And let us not forget the pasta. Tagliatelle in a pub. Never thought I'd see the day. And yet again, the dish is done to perfection. Fresh pasta, asparagus, peas, cream, it was like being on the Amalfi Coast, minus the glorious weather and beautiful Italians.
As much as celebrity chefs are boring me and I'm turning my attention to the underdogs, the street vans, the market stalls, etc. Heston is one of those chefs that just keeps churning out greatness. Well, in his restaurants anyway, his range at Waitrose is an abomination and he clearly doesn't taste-test everything before it's put on the shelves.
The Crown in Bray is exactly what I think the perfect pub is; full of old stuff, serving real ale, excellent food for a price that doesn't make me look for pocket change under my sofa.
Well done Heston!
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