I completely agree. I have eaten at many top London restaurants and I must say that The Crown tops them all. I would expect that James will beat Stephen in GBM (The Crown is head an shoulders above The Hardwick), but who knows.
I ate at The Crown 2 days ago and also back on October 27th, and had the taster menu both times. So here’s a quick report of The Crown.
The Crown is a small, almost cottage-like building located just outside the lovely area of Monmouth. The drive to The Crown is very beautiful which is lucky, because it’s so difficult to find! The interior is simple but classy, and feels very fine dining. The service is brilliant. Sometimes I feel awkward when the waiters are too helpful. But The Crown gets the balance between attentiveness and annoying perfectly.
Here is what I ate on the two visits to The Crown: Visit 1Starter 1- Scallop, Pork Belly and sweet corn
The first thing I thought when this came out was how great it looked, the contrast between the Welsh Slate and the food looked brilliant, and the small rasher of crispy bacon was neat. It tasted amazing. The pork belly was beautifully tender and had a tasty thick layer of fat on it. Sitting next to this was a single perfectly seared scallop. Both elements were well seasoned and tasted great with the sweet corn puree and foam. Normally I don’t particularly like foams but this added a nice light element to the dish. The only problem with this dish was that the sweet corn puree had set on the slate. However it was extremely good.Starter 2 – Wood Pigeon Foie Gras, five spice and garlic cream
This was my favourite savoury dish out of both visits. I liked how James took styles from various areas in the world, on this occasion China. The pigeon was delicious, and the five spice sauce was extremely flavourful and was a nice contrast to the light garlic foam. The foie gras was also tasty, but I must confess, because it was covered in sauce, I ate it all in one bite thinking that it was a piece of pigeon. Another delicious dish.Main Course 1 – Sea Bass, artichoke and chickpea
This dish was another example of James using different cuisines in his cooking. This time it was Indian. The Sea Bass was perfectly cooked, slightly crispy on the outside and it was topped with a delicious vegetable bhaji. The chickpeas complemented the dish well and there was a curry mix at the bottom of the dish. Unfortunately I don’t like artichokes, so I left the artichoke. But apart from that I greatly enjoyed this dish.Main Course 2 – Venison, chocolate, espresso and celeriac
This dish was one of my least favourite of the day. The espresso sauce was too strong and over powering for my liking. It came with a very rich chestnut risotto which I enjoyed and celeriac chips which I thought were under cooked. However the venison was perfectly cooked and was one of the nicest pieces of meats I have ever tasted. But the other flavours overpowered it when they were mixed.Dessert 1 – Toffee Soufflé, white chocolate and pistachio ice cream
This was my favourite desert out of both my trips to The Crown. The waiter finished this dish by poking a small hole in the soufflé and filling it with toffee sauce, then adding a scoop of ice cream. The soufflé was so light, but extremely flavourful, and the ice cream had a brilliant texture and flavour. Desert 2 – Dark Chocolate sponge and bitter orange
I don’t know if I found this course average because of the brilliant course preceding it or whether it just wasn’t particularly outstanding. But either way that was my thought. The sponge was quite hard and drowned in crème anglaise. The sorbet had a delicious flavour but a bad texture with chunks of icy lumps inside it. A pleasant but fairly average end to the meal.Petit Fours (from left to right)http://img8.imagesha...2/dscf2255h.jpgRaspberry Jelly –
This had an extremely intense flavour of raspberry and was coated in sour apple (I think) sugar.Coconut Truffle –
I love the flavour of coconut and I loved this petit four, it had grated coconut on the outside with white chocolate truffle on the inside. Very tasty.Chocolate Coated Ice Cream –
This was like a mini magnum. Nice. Lemon Biscuit thingy (don’t know the proper name for this, I’m sure someone can correct me) –
Very tasty lemon flavoured chewy biscuit.Popcorn Panacotta –
This was a great panacotta, but I couldn’t really taste the popcorn.Visit 2Amuse Bouche – Celeriac Veloute finished with Mushroom
This came out as a shot glass, filled with chunks of ceps and celeriac with a rasher of crispy bacon. The waitress then finished it with a celeriac veloute. I didn’t really know how to eat it, but I assumed that we were supposed to drink it because the rim of the glass was finished with mushroom powder. So I opted to eat the vegetables and bacon from the glass with a spoon, and then drink it. The vegetables were perfectly al dente and the bacon added a nice salty contrast to the extremely creamy veloute. The veloute was like a more flavourful potato soup and was as thin as milk, which I preferred because I hate drinking thick soup. It was overall a good start to the meal.Starter 1 – Smoked eel, sweetcorn, chilli and basil
This dish came out in a rather peculiar looking jar. The jar was opened by the waitress and thick smoke came out. It was a very Blumenthal-esque start to the meal. Some people think that things like that are pretentious but I like theatre in dining. The waitress then finished the dish with a sweetcorn veloute. The structure of the dish was similar to the amuse bouche. Under the veloute was crunchy sweet corn and baby corn, as well as pigs trotters, salad leaves, and a small cube of deep-fried smoked eel. The dish tasted great, but I didn’t pick up any chilli or basil from it.Starter 2 – Ham Hock, Langoustine, Celery and Mustard
This was one of the weaker dishes, it was pleasant but it didn’t have any wow factor. The ham hock was ok and the dressing was fairly lacking in flavour. However the langoustine was completely different to what I expected. It was so tender it almost tasted like a prawn pate (would’ve tasted delicious spread on toast). Another positive from this dish is I normally hate celery, but I quite enjoyed the crunch it gave in this instance.Main Course 1 – John Dory (Halibut?), cardamom and tomato dressing and tarragon gnocchi
This was a delicious dish. The fish was perfectly cooked. But I am not sure if it was John Dory or Halibut. We booked by e-mail to inform them we were coming and ordered John Dory, but on the day we heard them telling the table nearby that it was halibut. So I am not sure whether we were served halibut or John Dory, either way it was delicious. The cardamom and tomato ‘dressing’ was more of a thick puree, but was tasty nonetheless. And the gnocchi was lovely. It was topped off with 2 mini onion (or shallot?) rings, which melted in the mouth.Main Course 2 – Lamb, apricot, herb couscous and cumin sauce
The lamb in this dish was the nicest I’ve ever eaten. The couscous was also nice and flavoursome and the broad beans were tasty. It also had a very fun lamb sausage roll. This was a nice touch and tasted great. I didn’t actually pick up any flavours of cumin or apricot from this dish, which was probably for the better, because the lamb was just so perfect.Desert 1 – Blood orange jelly, honeycomb and vanilla ice cream
I was expecting this dish to be quite boring, but it was very delicious. The jelly packed loads of orange flavour, and the vanilla ice cream was perfection. The honeycomb was a perfect balance of crunchiness, but not toughness. And it was topped with a little light honeycomb cake. Desert 2 – Apple and Cinnamon terrine, tarragon and white chocolate ice cream
This dish consisted of a layered terrine of chopped apple flavoured with cinnamon, which the waitress then finished with a butterscotch sauce. It had a scoop of tarragon and white chocolate ice cream next to it. The apple and cinnamon terrine was delicious and went brilliantly with the butterscotch sauce. But the tarragon and white chocolate was a true revelation, it tasted fantastic, the tarragon was noticeable and subtle. Petit Fours
The petit fours here were the same as our previous visit. Except the popcorn panacotta was bubblegum pannacotta. Unfortunately this tasted hideous; it reminded me of aerosol spray cans. This was my only real complaint of the day though.
Edited by ElisG, 06 May 2009 - 11:59 AM.