Recently my partner’s parents came round and suggested we go to The Crown in Shirley for some food. As somewhere they used to go as they were growing up and living locally they wanted to see what it was like and they had visited other pubs of the Ember Inn brand that now own it.
I was not expecting to be heading out with them so I quickly flung my hair in a bobble and headed out bare-faced. But being a Sunday afternoon a lot of people were fairly casually dressed in and around the pub too.
As it was Sunday the main menus and offers available were Sunday Lunch related and after being away on and off for the last two weeks I liked the idea of tucking into something simple, tasty and vegetable laden.
But on looking at the menu I felt strangely uninspired. Partly by the lack of description that came with each bit but also just by the options in general. But one option did intrigue me and made me a little excited to see what it was all about and that was a “butternut squash and Shropshire blue wellington”.
If somebody says that to you the image that pops into the mind is probably a golden and crispy puff pastry parcel arriving which you crack into to reveal butternut squash compressed with other vegetables and some melted Shropshire blue cheese pouring out.. right??
So it fell a little at the first hurdle when it turned out to be shortcrust pastry but I was still looking forward to that cheesy inside and it must be in there because otherwise why would my gravy come in its own little container compared to all the meat dishes?
Let us first discuss how the cheese was actually within the pastry so incredibly mild and so much so that by the end of eating it I forgot it was in there at all. Then on opening the parcel I discovered tiny bits of butternut squash mixed with onion, mushroom and what I can only assume was stuffing. It really was not at all what I imagined from reading the title of the dish on the menu but it was tasty enough to eat although I do not think I would order it again.
The dish also came with some roast potatoes, boiled or steamed vegetables and two Yorkshire puddings as well as a little boat of gravy.
The gravy actually had a fair amount of flavour and depth but it tasted a little meaty to me which could easily put an actual vegetarian off. Although given the dryness of the pastry and how cold the vegetables were it could have done with a splash or two more.
I am from Yorkshire and I even have an Auntie called Bessie so I know a thing or two about Yorkshire puddings. These ones needed to be lightened up as the edges, where they were barely risen, were not so much stodgy as heavy and chewy. It was clear they had too much flour in and not enough egg to help them rise and be a little on the lighter side.
As for the potatoes they look well cooked but they were not fluffy on the inside or crispy on the outside. They came across as roast potatoes cooked in advance and then put into the microwave or not for long enough in the oven to reheat them before serving. I do not really think I have had roast potatoes quite like that before.
We were eating outside as it was quite nice and seemed like a relaxing thing to do. Plenty of other people were outside and eating too and whilst we waited perhaps two minutes to start eating whilst drinks and cutlery were collected I went straight for a pretty large chunk of carrot to discover it was already clap cold and severely overcooked (I could have mashed it with my fork). The plates did not arrive even slightly warm and all the food was quickly suffering from it waiting for four dishes to be plated and served.
We did however have dessert and the menu, as part of the roast option, called them mini but then did not mention if they would come with anything. I opted for a baked vanilla cheesecake which came with a ball of ice cream and some strawberries and raspberries. My raspberry was still frozen but the cheesecake was probably the best thing out of everything I had eaten but when I day mini I mean perhaps a 3×3cm piece of it with a melon ball scoop of ice cream.
I feel that they probably do better with their daily menu, burgers and such like, than they do with the roasts and perhaps eating inside makes a difference to how warm the food arrives and how quickly it is cooked (it took an hour for the food to arrive after ordering). The selection of alcohol was good, the atmosphere was good and the staff were friendly but the food did not live up to even carvery standard. Certainly will not be rushing back there in the future and it makes me a little nervous to go into any other Ember Inn establishments.