OXFORD TIMES ARTICLE 2010 - written by Helen Peacocke with assistance from Pythius the border collie!
The Crown Inn, in Church Enstone, tucked away amid glorious rolling countryside.
Drivers may not appreciate just how close they are to a prize-winning pub as they travel the A44, which passes through the village, on the way to Chipping Norton.
It’s a pub I use often and for many reasons — not least because of the many walks that can be enjoyed in this area.
A couple of months ago, The Crown Inn was voted the Best Restaurant in the North Cotswolds, a well-deserved accolade, which licensees Caroline and Tony Warburton live up to in every way.
The couple moved to the Crown seven years ago, having fallen in love with the area and the pub. Caroline says they were looking for somewhere where a community spirit prevailed and found it at Church Enstone.
“The first thing we were struck with was the friendliness of those living in the area. We didn’t want an upmarket restaurant, we wanted a place where people could enjoy the buzz of a pub while enjoying good food at reasonable prices.”
Putting the locals first is probably one of the secrets to this enterprising couple’s success. Regardless of when you visit this pub you will usually find people chatting over a pint at the bar, or sitting in groups enjoying a gin and tonic in the attractive little walled garden at the back. Many of these regular customers will be accompanied by a dog, having called in for a drink while walking their canine friend around a nearby meadow.
Caroline explained that the Crown was known as a dog-friendly pub when they took it over, and they certainly didn’t want to stop that tradition.
A considerable number of their customers come to eat, as the couple’s philosophy is to serve good food, which is sourced locally whenever possible. Tony, who has been a chef all his life, is in charge of the kitchen, leaving Caroline to look after the front of the house.
With autumn approaching he is already preparing for the game season and looking forward to cooking local game birds and venison, though over the years he has made a name for himself through the fish dishes he serves, the most popular at the moment being warm scallop and bacon salad. Other dishes that usually feature on the menu include Tony’s home-made steak and Hooky pie, for which he won an award a few years ago. His fish and chips are proving a winner, too, popular with villagers who can order fish and chips to take away.
I admit being particularly fond of The Crown’s traditional Sunday roast, which comes with crunchy roast potatoes and an assortment of fresh seasonal vegetables, many of which have come from customers’ gardens. Tony and Caroline are often given baskets of freshly-harvested vegetables by those living in the village, which are swapped for a pint or two of bitter, which means everyone is happy. “That’s the sort of thing you can do when running a small country pub,” said Caroline, who explained that they have never wanted to run an upmarket restaurant, and are loath to describe their establishment as a gastro pub.
In the winter a roaring log fire heats up the bar area, turning it into a warm cosy place that proves particularly comforting after a long dog walk on a bitterly cold day.
In these difficult days of recession, it’s good to know that some country pubs are getting it right. The Crown attracts both visitors and locals, even during the winter months and as their menu follows the seasons, it changes as frequently as the beautiful countryside in which it stands.
Food is served from noon to 2pm and from 7pm to 9pm every day except Sundays. If you aim to try their Sunday roast, it’s best to book a table by phoning 01608 629305.
Member since: 10th July 2012
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