The Crown at Iverley, Stourbridge
Our undercover meal reviewer The Insider enjoys a high-class dining experience delivered by a top chef.
Our undercover meal reviewer
enjoys a high-class dining experience delivered by a top chef.
Sometimes you wonder if things just aren't going to happen. It was in July 2009 that a reader suggested I should try The Crown at Iverley, which boasted a varied menu, good atmosphere and attentive service.
I know what you're thinking. "That was two years ago. How come it's taken you so long to get round to it?"
The simple answer is that a lot of other people seem to like this place too. I had tried on two previous occasions to get a table at The Crown, and on both occasions I failed miserably.
Oh, well, third time lucky. Part of the attraction is probably the chef, the renowned Didier Philpot. The Frenchman, who has been in the West Midlands for the past eight years, is a former holder of the "Best Chef in Worcestershire" award, and more recently had his own restaurant in Birmingham, La Toque D'Or, which held two AA rosettes.
The Crown is certainly a head-turner, set back from the Kidderminster-to-Stourbridge road. There is a small car park to the front, covered in light, york-stone type gravel, with a larger car park across the road.
And this pub truly has the patio to beat all patios. Shielded from the road by glass partitions, and shielded from the elements by a line of large, square parasols, the whole shebang looks more Cannes than Stourbridge. The immaculate floral displays add a glorious dash of summer colour, even the smoking shelter has been made into an attractive rustic feature. There is another, enclosed, garden area to the right of the pub.
From the outside it looks quite a substantial place, like an old country house that has been extended over the years. Yet inside it seems surprisingly small. The dining area is a long, narrow L-shaped room, with a pleasant, large conservatory at the end.
As with the outside, the interior of this pub is swish, stylish and cool. Too many country pubs overdo the rustic look, all dark woods, bolt-on beams and fussy trinkets, but this is refreshingly modern. The distressed floorboards give a subtle nod to the past, but in a tastefully understated way. The light cream walls give a bright, airy feel, and the modern square tables are both stylish and reassuringly solid. And I really loved the cream, brown and lime green mosaic-patterned chairs, which were not only bright and distinctive, but also pleasingly comfortable.
The clientele is an interesting mixture of young professionals, who seem to gravitate towards the bar, and more mature types sat in the area around the conservatory, where one man was talking fondly about his memories of Wolverhampton's Catacombs club.
Two young ladies – I would be surprised if either of them was over 30 – were working very hard, looking after everybody in the restaurant between them. A sign outside said "Kay and Bridie welcome you to The Crown", so I suspect they were the ones in charge of the place. It was hard to find fault with the service, which was friendly, polite and efficient.
There is a very good choice of wines, but I was a little disappointed by the lack of locally-sourced ales on offer. However, I did notice an Enville Ales pump clip which had been turned back to front at the bar, so perhaps I just called on a night when it was temporarily off.
While I couldn't find a beer to my taste, the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was excellent; bright, fruity and refreshing, with lively citrus notes, it is just the job for those summer evenings.
The menu is excellent too – providing you like meat or fish. The fish menu includes cod battered with Enville Ale, Scottish salmon, king scallops, lobster, Brixham lemon sole and monkfish tale. They're not the cheapest, ranging from £12 for the cod to £25 for the lobster, but hardly extortionate either – after all, if you want quality you have to pay for it.
Similar attention to detail has gone into the meat and poultry menu, with corn-fed guinea fowl and Barbary duck among the mains. There is also a slightly simpler table d'hote menu, which offers a still impressive choice of dishes – including a spring vegetable risotto for vegetarians – where you can have two courses for £13.50 Monday to Thursday, or £18.50 on Friday and Saturday. Monday to Saturday lunchtime, the same menu is available for a very reasonable £10.
And while the vegetarian choice may be a little limited, it is worth noting that the chef will try and produce any dish you ask for providing you give 48 hours' notice. You really can't say fairer than that.
The spring lamb in basil and olive oil jus sounded delightful, and I was also tempted by the braised chuck of beef from the set menu. But, as a steak lover, I was dying to find out what the fillet was like, and I certainly wasn't disappointed.
Superb. Outstanding. Deep, tender, luxurious, not an ounce of fat, but still with plenty of flavour, it's been a while since I had one this good.
The pepper sauce was hot and spicy, and I loved the thick hand-cut chips which were arranged in a smart stack. Some people have commented that you only get six of them, but they are so large and thick they are actually quite filling.
If you do prefer a bowl of smaller fries, the staff will happily oblige – but to be honest, I can't possibly understand why you would have anything other than the big chips, crisp and golden on the outside, but beautifully soft and fluffy inside.
My dining companion had a Brixham crab platter, served with lemon mayonnaise, warm bread and a bowl of fries, and she remarked it had been beautifully done.
For afters, I decided to go for the treacle tart. This was much truer to the description than many, being set in a proper pastry base, and it looked superb. Its was very hot, and its filling was delightfully sweet, although it was not the biggest, and at £6 it was not what you would call cheap. However, after a pretty hearty meal, I was not looking for something too heavy, so it filled the gap perfectly.
To say I was pleasantly surprised when I was presented with a bill for £44 was something of an understatement, I was sure it should have been more. And indeed, closer examination revealed this to be the case – the wine, coffee and orange juice had all been missed off. I suppose I could have kept quiet, but that wouldn't have been very sporting, and the lady at the till seemed very grateful when I pointed the mistake out.
The correct bill came to £61.40 for two main courses, a bit of bread to start with and dessert, plus a glass of wine each, a couple of coffees and a fruit juice. You can't say this is a cheap place, but the food, service and surroundings are top drawer.
If you want quality, you have to pay for it, and there doesn't seem to be any shortage of people willing to do so.
Well worth treating yourself for a special meal. But you may need to book in advance.
The Crown at Iverley, Kidderminster Road, Iverley, Stourbridge DY8 2RX
Tel: (01562) 883004
Caramelised Isle of Skye king scallops, tomato confit, asparagus and onion millefeuille, garlic and parsley sauce (£8); Dodine of Perigord foie gras, salt flower, armagnac, toasted brioche, truffle salad (£8); Chicken liver parfait, pickled gherkins, salad and toast (£6)
Fillet of Brixham cod (£12); Scottish lobster, whole/half (£25/£18); Supreme of guinea fowl, crushed garden peas, onion and bacon with port-creamed sauce (£13); Roasted rump of spring lamb, basil mash potato, sun-dried tomato, black olive, basil and olive oil jus (£18); Roasted supreme of Barbary duck breast, Griottine cherry, olive oil crushed potato, balsamic jus (£18)
Brioche and chocolate chip bread and butter pudding (£6); Selection of cheeses (£8)
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