Jessica Hope discovers a cosy country pub that is taking the traditional up a notch
We’re rather lucky in this part of the country that when we’re on the search for a good pub, there’s an abundance of choice at our fingertips. In Bath’s city centre, there are watering holes on offer around every corner. But when the nights begin drawing in and the rain comes lashing down as November appears, there’s nothing better than finding salvation at a country pub in front of a warm open fire with a proper pint or glass of red, cracking food and good company. And an escape to the country is definitely something you will find at the Old Crown Inn at Kelston.
Just a hop, skip and a jump from the city, this pub has been pouring pints for centuries, and in the last couple of years, it’s had a big rejuvenation courtesy of the brains behind The Inn at Freshford, The Cross Guns at Avoncliff and The Griffin Inn on Monmouth Street. It’s retained its historic charm with its flagstone flooring, wooden beams and log fireplaces, while the bar has had a freshen up and there have been big changes in the garden – in the summer the place was bustling with punters at the outdoor bar watching Wimbledon on an outdoor screen. (I’m also reassured that you’ll still be able to make the most of this in the winter as there will be hot mulled wine and an almighty fire pit burning.)
Back inside you will find cosy corners perfect for couples dining, spacious tables for groups of families and friends, and you’ll always find the regulars propping up the bar, sometimes with a faithful pooch sat at their feet. As word has spread about The Old Crown’s revamped food and drink offering, it was unsurprising to find it humming with people for a Friday night on our visit.
Turning our attention to the food, we were spoiled for choice. For starters, I couldn’t not choose the Cornish mussels. Fresh, plump and cooked in a deliciously light cider, cream and leek sauce, these went down a treat with the toasted pumpkin seed bread (£7). My dining partner, Russell, went for the homemade scotch egg with barbecue-like sauce (£8), assuring me it was nothing like those half-empty excuses of scotch eggs you find in supermarkets – oh no, this was filled to the brim with well-seasoned sausage meat, with a crispy coating, perfect for dipping.
Moving on to the mains, I chose the smoked haddock fish cakes with shaved fennel salad and onion crisp (£14). Beautifully presented, the delicately smoked fish contrasted well with the tangy herb sauce, and the deep-fried onion crisp, which took the guise of a flat onion bhaji, added a savoury moreishness to the dish. For a more traditional approach, there are also some serious pub classics on offer here, done exceptionally well. Fish and chip Friday is a particularly popular night with customers (enjoy an enormous fish, chips, crushed peas and house tartar with a drink for £12), and there’s chunky beef and bean and lentil burgers, plus a butter-poached rump steak that makes us start salivating at the thought…
Russell went for the Darcy pie (named after the owner’s daughter), filled to the brim with venison, steak and kidney and served with chips, tender stem broccoli and gravy (£11). With crisp, buttery pastry and rich, tender meat, this was an instant winter warmer on a plate. The pies, which change quite often on the menu, are made by Freshford FoodCo, which was launched by the pub group’s owner Jack De Bruin at the end of September. The pies, as well as the other homemade baked goods, sausage rolls, chutneys, hotdogs et cetera on the menu have been going down so well at the pub that you can now order them through the Freshford FoodCo to take home – that means a Darcy pie in front of Strictly for a Saturday night treat might just be on the cards soon…
If you’ve somehow got the room for dessert (the portions are seriously worth the money here) the gooey espresso brownie with vanilla ice cream (£7) is a serious indulgence. Or if you fancy something a little more cleansing, the passion fruit and coconut cream sundae with sorbet and toasted almonds (£7) are light, fruity and sharp – and definitely one that you could order with two spoons. And if you can’t manage any more food, then an espresso martini or liqueur coffee (from £7) could be a good bet to round off the evening.
Set on the outskirts of the beautiful Cotswold countryside, and just half a mile from Kelston Roundhill, The Old Crown Inn is an ideal retreat after blowing the cobwebs away on an appetite-inducing winter walk. The colder months are making themselves felt, and this little pub could just be the warming hearth you need this season.
The Old Crown Inn, Kelston Road, Kelston, BA1 9AQ. Tel: 01225 423032; oldcrownkelston.com