The Crown Inn, Frampton Mansell, Gloucestershire - Restaurant Review
This is a quite brilliant establishment, says Katie Jarvis, but do keep an eye on your coat!
So Ian and I stomp out of the shivery cold into the oak-beamed warmth of the Crown at Frampton, hang our coats on the back of our chairs, stretch out our legs in front of the open fire and reminisce about how different the pub used to look years ago when we frequented it as youths. And then we remember it looked so startlingly different because it was the Bell at Sapperton that we used to go to.
And so this chap in plus fours – one of a party of guns and beaters – comes up to Ian and politely asks, “Could you just lean forward so I can get the coat from the back of your chair?” Ian, ever obliging, does as requested, while I try to remember how to do that really complicated thing where you move your mouth up and down and words come out. I get the hang of it again just in time to yell, “But Ian, that’s your coat!” as the chap disappears out of the door. As Ian hurtles after him, various thoughts go through my mind. I’ve occasionally watched The Real Hustle and marvelled at how people can be caught out by the simplest of tricks. Now it dawns on me that those tricks are, in fact, unnecessarily over-complicated.
“So,” I ask Ian, on his return, trying to get my mind round the fact that he must never be allowed out alone again. “Let’s establish some boundaries around this. Say someone came in and asked for your trousers...”
“Bloody shooters,” remarks the drinker at the next table. “Think they can handle a 12-bore when they can’t even identify their own coat at point-blank range.”
He has a point. Only that morning, my brother had described to me his one shooting experience where he had spent the day missing every single clay going. The event culminated in a competition where targets were whizzing overhead, in front, near the ground, in a series of complex manoeuvres designed to test the best to the limits. To everyone’s amazement, my brother picked up his gun and blasted each one to bits without pause. Though he didn’t say anything, he was as astonished as they were. He’d mislaid his glasses moments before and couldn’t see a thing.
My brother is one of an elite group of people with a miscellany of eyesight-related stories to tell, which include not rinsing his hair properly after a particularly vigorous shampoo and going out in the rain directly afterwards. If you once saw a man in the middle of Dartmouth, with froth on his head, temporarily blinded by rivulets of soap running into his eyes, that would be him. I myself, while walking through Creaseys department store in Guernsey with him (the locations are exotic if the stories are not), was surprised when he suddenly speeded up to around 170mph, charged through ladies’ fashion, and finished his journey somewhat abruptly in row of pleasantly floral frocks. It transpired that he’d failed to see a series of inter-departmental steps.
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But back to the Crown, where Ian and I enjoy a Stroud Brewery Ding Dong while further exploring the coat incident – one of a range of craft beers served in this most brilliant of establishments. The young waitresses are plentiful, smiley, helpful and efficient, and the food is unpretentious, equally plentiful and good value: �13.75 for a saddle of venison with a beetroot and red cabbage slaw, crushed new potatoes and purple sprouting; �8.50 for Old Spot sausages and mash; �8.75 for a home-made burger and chips. Many of the dishes can be done in child portions, too.
In fact, loads of people have told me how good the Crown is – and they’re right. Maybe too good, in the sense that once you could have walked into a place like this, plonked down on almost any given table, and enjoyed those real ales all night. Now there are reserved signs all over, waiting for diners to tuck in. But pubs have to go with the flow, and the Crown is far from exploiting its good name. We tuck in to a three-course extravaganza, with wine and coffee, for a relatively modest �60-odd for two: rich wood pigeon breast and black pudding wrapped in Parma ham, with a hollandaise sauce; baked field mushrooms with wilted spinach and creamy Cornish Yarg; a beautifully-cooked rump steak, and a (too dry and heavy but still tasty) steak and kidney pudding with mash and vegetables. And then we share a sticky toffee pudding and a cheese course – a nicely-chosen Oxford blue, Applewood smoked cheddar and Somerset Brie – with coffee. It is the kind of pub that makes you proud to be English: pretty in summer, cosy in winter, packed with local characters (though possibly more shooters than beaters), honest and genuine.
Take a seat by the fire, order a pint from Stroud Brewery, relax; but maybe keep your coat on at all times.
Ambience 7; Service 8; Food 7; Value for money 9.
The Crown Inn, Frampton Mansell, Stroud GL6 8JG, 01285 760601