Isn’t there something so wonderfully nostalgic about returning home? Getting on the train you always used to get, passing by where you went to school, your favourite restaurant as a kid, and that old pub that you always used to go to on Friday night? Well that’s exactly how I feel when I go to Amersham, the place where I grew up, a beautiful market town in Buckinghamshire.
The great thing about Amersham is that you can get a huge lungful of country air, you’re surrounded by fields and rolling hillsides, yet it only takes forty minutes to get to from Central London. Catch the Chiltern Turbo from Marylebone straight to Amersham or jump on the tube, it’s right at the end of the Metropolitan line.
The prettiest part of Amersham is the old town, home to a 13th century church, cute wobbly building like this and several pubs and coaching inns that have been around for over 100 years.
The Crown Inn is one such pub. A 16th Century Coaching Inn, The Crown has been a fixture in Old Amersham for years, also acquiring fame when it appeared in cult classic, Four Weddings and a Funeral. But for me The Crown was a place my parents used to take us for dinner and then, when I was old enough, the pub I used to go to with my friends. A place that holds so many wonderful memories for me and my family.
Back then, the well loved decor was admitedly a little stuffy but the nowadays The Crown is looking super chic, reinvented by designer Ilse Crawford, gone are the red velvet curtains and dark interiors replaced with stripped wooden floorboards and tables complemented by cosy fireplaces and soft furnishings. Isle Crawford has also taken her hand to the bedrooms giving them a modern facelift whilst maintaining the character of the traditional coaching inn. Along with this stylish facelift, The Crown boasts a destination dining restaurant that along with The Artichoke is putting Amersham on the gastronomic map.
With multi-Michelin starred chef, Atul Kochhar at the helm, Hawkyns is the jewel in The Crown so to speak. With an invitation to review, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit my old hang out and to bring my mum along as my plus one. At Hawkyns, Atul Kochhar fuses British cuisine with flavours from his native India to create his own modern cuisine, and an excellent one it is too!
Starting with an amuse bouche, the beetroot is juicy and lightly spiced with cumin and a complementing wafter. The focaccia is light and fluffy with that perfect amount of salt and oil.
Though we were tempted by the vegetarian tasting menu, we opted for the à la carte with a few extras thrown in. My mum chose an utterly delicious cauliflower velouté with toasted cumin seeds and perfectly crispy cauliflower. Not too creamy but just creamy enough… my mum loved it and this is a woman who knows her soup!`
The chef also threw in a very prettily presented plate of beetroot cured salmon. We loved the two types of beetroot on the plate, along with a orange and fennel salad, a light a refreshing dish that is not overly spicy if that’s your preference.
My starter of charcoal salmon ‘mi-cuit’ or half cooked was just as I liked it plus enhanced with smoky flavours and balanced with a citrussy salad of kachumber, lemon gel, onion and tomato as well as daubes of black salt yoghurt. I’m reminded of when I first fell in love with Atul’s cuisine at Benares, his Indian-British fusion restaurant in Mayfair – and this suburban version is every bit as good.
Another bonus dish, we also tried the mushroom galette with warm earthy flavours in the galette pairing perfectly with the pickled mushroom accompaniment and sprinkling of cep powder. A base of saffron bread was a highlight to this dish as was the contrasting texture of the crisp truffle cone filled with yogurt on the side.
My sea bass main course was cooked to perfection with a crispy skin, delicious dots of squid ink and aubergine puree, crispy charred cauliflower, fennel and a light curry sauce. I absolutely loved this dish and it’s just something I could eat again and again.
It was a meal of highs and no real lows but the Tandoori chicken from the set lunch was perhaps our least favourite dish as the chicken itself was a little salty. It was however beautifully balanced with a bombay aloo and spinach sauce. Speaking of which I would have liked to see more Indian influenced side dishes on the menu, what’s an Indian meal without some naan bread or rice? Instead the side dishes here are Anglicised – chips or salad – I’m sure they’re lovely but it’s the Indian influences that make this place shine.
With none of the side dishes quite hitting the spot, we ordered the main course Jerusalem artichoke risotto with broccoli as a side – ok it’s not Indian either but it was utterly delicious.
My dessert is a twist on a British classic. And it’s wonderful. A spiced apple and berry crumble with black currant sorbet. It’s sweet enough alone but those that can’t eat a crumble without a hit of custard, that’s on the side too.
My mum’s dessert of malai kulfi with mango and raspberry purée was a refreshing end to an absolutely wonderful meal. An ice cream-type dessert that wasn’t too sweet with the perfect touch of tartness from the fruits.
As we got in my mum’s car for her to give me a lift to Amersham station (just like the old days) we talked about how much we enjoyed the meal, even making plans to book Benares for my mum’s birthday lunch in a couple of weeks.
I don’t need to say again how much we loved Hawkyns by Atul Kochhar, a great asset to locals but also well worth a trip into Amersham to try it!
The Crown Inn
16 High St
We were guests of Hawkyns and our lunch was complimentary