Last Sunday we had lunch with my sister in law. This is a pretty major achievement - despite the fact that she is our only family member who lives within cooee (and even on the same tube line, and she has a car), we don't see nearly enough of her (she has a very impressive social schedule). Unfortunately the day she was able to come and see us coincided with a day where I really could not be bothered cooking. At all. So I booked a table at The Crown in Amersham, knowing that Shiona appreciates a country drive and a roast lunch.
The last time we went to The Crown, they had elderflower-spiked prosecco on the menu as an aperitif - which I didn't try because I am not a fan of elderflower. Other friends who have been have said good things about the rhubarb fizz, so I was delighted to see that the fizz of the day was spiked with morello cherry. As well as being a lovely colour, there was a very delicate but true sour cherry flavour with the tiniest hint of almond. Just perfect on a lovely warm day.
As a starter Paul chose devilled kidneys. I wasn't really surprised - although he isn't the biggest kidney fan, we've been watching Great British Menu on BBC Iplayer and one of the contestants did a devilled crab dish which captured his imagination. Devilled kidneys are a really old-fashioned dish, usually quite heavily seasoned with mustard, cayenne pepper and worcestershire sauce. These were nicely flavoured and well-cooked, but didn't have the amount of spice you'd look for.
I had potted shrimps, which were warmed, sweet and lovely. They could have had a touch more mace to them, but I really appreciated not having to hack through mounds of over-chilled butter to get to them. It reminded me that I have some peeled brown shrimp in the freezer waiting for me to make my own potted shrimp.
Shiona had haddock brandade, which she said was nice but very potato-y. I suppose because smoked haddock doesn't have the slightly fibrous texture of salt cod, they had to use a lot of potato to bind it. We thought it was a little bit strange that all three of our starters were served on the same slabs of granary toast. A bit of variation would have been nice. Either the brandade or the shrimps would have looked better served in a ramekin with the toast on the side. But that is a minor quibble.
In addition to the regular Sunday lunch menu, because it was such a nice day they had a "summer barbecue kitchen" running. I ordered a Gloucestershire Old Spot pork chop, which was marinated in a slightly sweet and spicy glaze and barbecued to tender perfection. It was really fabulous. Simply served with a big pile of green salad in a mustardy dressing and some new potato salad with lots of chives and parsley in a creme fraiche dressing, it was clearly the best choice of the day!
Paul suffered a bit of menu envy, but the roast beef he had was very good too. Slightly over-cooked Yorkshire pudding, beautifully crisp but fluffy-middled potatoes, buttery crisp green cabbage, some little carrots and a pool of gravy completed the plate. He said he would have appreciated a bit of horseradish on the plate, but other than that it was a very good roast lunch.
Shiona had the roast lamb - which was cooked medium to welldone, just the way she likes it. It had the same vegetables as the roast beef (but no Yorkie) and again was a very good roast lunch.
Shiona and I decided that we still had space for dessert. Of course.
There were several tempting options, and I was quite surprised that she didn't choose the chocolate and coffee mousse (she is a serious chocoholic) and instead chose a banana cake with rum & banana icecream. It was a very, very large portion of cake, and it was seriously overcooked. It was very dry, although it had a good flavour, and I think it would have benefitted from some hot caramel sauce or custard or something to moisten it a bit. The icecream was delicious though - very smooth, very banana-y and with a good strong kick from the rum.
I decided that for a summer Sunday lunch in England, dessert really had to be strawberries and cream. The strawberries were enormous - five strawbs made a very good portion; they were the size of plums. And just simply hulled, topped with cream and a tiny sprinkle of sugar. In a perfect world the strawberries would still have been warm from the sun on the garden bed and the sugar would have been touched with vanilla beans, but we don't live in a perfect world and I was very happy with it as it was.
We took the scenic route home, then drank tea and skyped Paul's parents - who apparently have been reading my blog, so hello to Pieter and Marina!