THE CROWN and Garter in Inkpen, Berkshire, is a 17th century pub with spacious rooms that were converted from a stable in 2014.
The pub is in the heart of the South English countryside and is a gem among the local woods, farms and hedgerows.
It is the definition of a snug countryside getaway hidden just a couple of hours out of London.
Make sure you get there on time and drive carefully when you hit the narrow country lanes because the local deer, pheasants, cyclists and grouses all have a death wish.
We checked in mid-afternoon while the pub looked closed, but after finding a member of staff we were quickly sorted out with a beer to enjoy in the Hampton Court style garden that used to be the stable yard and is the central feature adjoining the rooms.
The rooms themselves are hidden down a little nook beside the pub, which gives the whole thing a secluded feel perfect for couples looking for a weekend away.
The place has been made covid-safe after lockdown and at no point did we feel worried or that guidelines were being ignored.
The big selling point about the Crown and Garter is the food – and what a point chefs Simon and Marius make.
The C&G has pushed their constantly adapted evening dishes toward a fine dining experience based on a solid bedrock of British pub grub. Everything we ate was balanced, creative and delicious.
Everything is made fresh on-site or by the Honesty group who own it along with a bakery and a string of Berkshire café’s – from the soused mackerel to the ketchup, it’s all homemade. You can also get it all as takeout if you call ahead.
While there are still classics on the menu, like the C&G burger, the mains are where the magic really happens.
I had the roast rump of lamb, that came with a minty hung yoghurt and a splodge of pea puree that had a twist of something I can’t quite put my finger on but I definitely want more of.
My girlfriend had the roast chicken that she described as “really yummy and well-seasoned” as she nearly inhaled it. We washed it all down with a decent bottle of prosecco.
The puddings we had were accurately described by the waitress as “just lush”. The damson and chocolate fondant dessert comes with parsnip ice cream which added a quirky relief from the sharpness of the fruit puree.
We absolutely tidied up all three courses and squeezed in a post-dinner whiskey and coffee before heading off to bed.
The rooms are spacious, clean and tastefully decorated. The bathroom was sparkly and the wash kits provided are excellent too.
Located in the middle of nowhere, the Inn is so quiet at night you could hear a field mouse fluff its pillow.
We slept like babies until we woke to the rumbling voices of people enjoying the cafe and the garden.
Breakfast at the pub is open to guests only for the time being, which worked out great for us as we got the comfy fireside seats.
Served between 8 and 10 it was fantastic and we lingered over a table packed with pastry, English classics and croque monsieur until midday.
The Breakfast Galette, introduced by London-born general manager Laura, is well worth the 20 minute wait and has this heartiness to it you only find in a propper full English.
The waitress, Judit, who is as genuine and charming as the rest of her colleagues, will do everything in her power to fatten you up while you wait.
I overheard that guests can also have a free coffee at the café if you want to spend the morning there among the cyclists that frequent the area.
Things to do
For the active types, the C&G is central to hours of walking and is sat opposite a wood where there is a lot of wildlife including deer and hawks that hover over the village.
The five Inkpen walks around the area include a decent walk up to Combe Gibbet that will give you spectacular views of the North Wessex Downs AONB and take you back through the surrounding villages.
Sadly we didn't get to go to the nearby Highclere Castle, where they filmed Downtown Abbey, but that didn't really spoil our experience.
After our long walk (we got lost) we drove to the nearby Bombay Sapphire distillery that’s recently reopened with coronavirus restrictions in place and a well-adapted experience.
The tour is informative, well presented and entertaining and there’s a really great bit at the end where they give you a free cocktail, which rounded the trip off nicely.
A night at the Crown and Garter will set you back about £105 not including the meal but there are special deals on at the moment.
You can check availability and prices on their website here.
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