WITH so many pubs closing it appears the Crown in Ardleigh has found the formula for success.

When I had a meal there two years ago on a Sunday afternoon it was packed.

This time I went on a Thursday night and it was just a busy.

Why is it so popular?

The country pub feel, with beams, an open fire and old pictures on the wall, must play a part.

As in all good pubs, there are a fine selection of beers and ciders.

Unlike so many pubs these days, there’s no televisions, music or pool tables, and I only noticed one fruit machine. It appears the art of conversation must be alive and well in Ardleigh.

But the main reason for its success, if our meal it anything to go by, is probably its food.

For starter I had oak smoked chicken liver pate.

I made pate for the first time at Christmas (duck liver pate to be precise...it’s mum’s favourite) so my instinct told me to see how the professionals do it.

They do, of course, do it better.

My own effort was too rich, and I didn’t have the imagination or skill to serve it with onion marmalade and on walnut toast. Suffice to say I was impressed.

Danielle had king scallops and king prawns, both cooked to perfection and served on focaccia. The garlic, parsley and lemon butter brought out the best in the shellfish combo.

For main course I had Scottish venison medallion on mash with broad and green beans, and a mini slow-cooked venison cottage pie.

I would have preferred the medallion rarer – it was certainly closer to the well done end of the scale – but I didn’t ask, or get asked.

But the cottage pie was the winner. Served in a ramekin, the beautifully rich minced venison covered with slices of potato was a delight.

More pie, less medallion, please.

Danielle had the roast half chicken served with steak chips and watercress. The breast was a tad on the dry side, saved by the garlic, parsley and lemon butter, but thankfully the leg was more moist.

The desert menu offered a excellent mixture of refreshing sorbets and ice creams, comforting puddings and pies, and downright decadence in the form or giant profiteroles and banoffee cheesecake.

I went for a Sussex pond pudding.

For those of you, like me, who had never heard of it before it’s a whole lemon slow-cooked in suet pastry. The pool of lemony sauce inside the pudding was delicious and balanced the citrus and sweetness wonderfully.

Danielle thought she’d ordered the apple, loganberry and blackberry crumble, and although the waitress was apologetic and offered to change it she was happy with the unexpected Kentish bramley apple pie.

It was served with a miniature jug of custard and it was all polished off.

A meal at the Ardleigh Crown doesn’t come cheap but it’s certainly not your ordinary pub grub.

I would love to see something like the Crown operating in Colchester town centre – to my mind it is proof pubs can still be as popular as they ever were.


Chicken pate £4.95
Scallops and prawns £6.75
Venison duo £14.95
Roast chicken £10.95
Apple pie £5.45
Sussex pond pudding £4.75


THE VERDICT (Out of 5)

Atmosphere 5
Food 4
Decor 4
Value 4
Service 4