FOOD REVIEW: A Sunday treat at the Crown & Anchor in Ham, near Marlborough
The first thing we noticed as we waited by the hatch to the kitchen was the Yorkshire puddings.
They were big, airy beauties, on the plate next to pink roast beef, draped across roast vegetables.
Before we’d even sat down, it was clear what our family order would be – four roast beefs please.
The Crown & Anchor is a village pub tucked in the rolling Wiltshire hills at Ham, near Marlborough.
It’s not a part of the county I know well, so it was a bit of an adventure getting there on a blustery grey Sunday.
But it’s certainly got kerb appeal – just past the village green it’s a handsome-looking building at the heart of the community.
And we had high hopes – manning the stoves was chef Phil Bayliss, a former head chef for River Cottage and Marco Pierre White. The pub itself had a story to tell.
Closed since 2016 when it was an Indian restaurant, it was rescued by two village families who transformed it into an upmarket inn with rooms (and very nice they are too, complete with original beams and features).
We were there on a Sunday (£24 for two courses, £29 for three) and arrived to a busy room, the soundtrack was the hubbub of family chatter, always a good sign.
The menu had plenty of choice, on top of the already-spotted Sunday lunch. For those who don’t fancy the beef, there’s stuffed venison leg, braised rabbit leg, calves liver and more to choose from.
We’d had an early breakfast so went for starters – beef consomme with beef shin wonton for me, crispy duck egg, watercress velouté and black pudding for my other half.
Both arrived, pretty as you like. The consommé in a deep bowl, dark and super savoury, the wonton bobbing about in its depths, a flavour bomb.
The duck egg (runny in the middle as it should be) came in a coat of panko breadcrumbs, the velouté smooth and delicious and the black pudding bringing a bit of crunch at bite. I thought it needed a bit of salt, but I think that about everything.
We shared both, we were both happy.
Then the roasts came (including two smaller versions for the children). While the children pushed aside the carrot puree suspiciously, we looked under the beef slices to find roasted celeriac, greens and roast potatoes in a well-reduced gravy. The horseradish looked and tasted homemade.
Silence fell at the table as we all tucked in.
We’d come this far, so won’t going to let the puds defeat us. My son was overjoyed to find his favourite ice cream flavour (coconut) was on the menu. But it had sold out. Fortunately his second-favourite (mint-choc chip) was in. A happy boy.
My daughter went for mango cheesecake and was very impressed with how grown-up it looked (and how it tasted).
My wife went for rhubarb panna cotta with honeycomb. It had just the right wobble and was pronounced a success. I snaffled a bit of honeycomb, my favourite.
I had chilled white chocolate and orange souffle with chocolate sauce. It was more like a mousse but none the worse for it. Almost too sweet for me, but just the right side of the line. And the white chocolate sauce at the bottom, which I didn’t find till half way through, was a bonus.
One that my children very much enjoyed ‘helping’ me polish off.
By now we were full. The children had finished the colouring and wordsearch. It was time to head home for a lie down. But we’ll be back.
• We were invited along to review the Crown & Anchor and accepted on the condition that the review we wrote was objective.
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