Nestled amongst quaint thatched cottages, and with a clear chalk stream running through the spacious beer garden, the Crown Inn in Shorwell has been a pleasant, if unremarkable wayside inn for centuries. In wintertime feeding the ducks or looking out for fish in the babbling waters has limited appeal, and so when we visited we were more interested in the cosy interior. With low beams and uneven floors this is a place where tall people need to be on their guard. We were greeted by the friendly staff, and found a comfy table by the real log fire. A few families with kids were settled nearby, and there was even a dog or two. Soon there was ale on the table, and we were enjoying some proper country pub atmosphere.
On the starters menu was smoked duck – maybe an ultra-local delicacy – but the rest of the menu is classic pub grub: fish and chips, pies, burgers and all the usual accompaniments. There’s a kid’s menu, and even a ‘slimming-friendly menu’ – we didn’t look at that. Sipping our drinks and chatting, it wasn’t long before our food arrived.
Steak and ale pie £13.95
Brie and caramelised onion tart £12.95
Cinnamon bao buns 2 @ £5 = £10
Our homemade steak and ale pie came with a dollop of mashed potato, a couple of carrots and a bit of parsnip, and a purple spoonful of braised red cabbage that made for an attractive set of colours. The pie itself was a corner piece, not just a few spoonfuls of stew with a bit of puff-pastry chucked on the top. No, this was a big, solid pie that clearly boasted pastry all round – pastry which had been stuffed with as much meat as could fit in. There was no question of any gap at the top – this pie was good, meaty steak all the way. The pastry lid was in fact so mighty that we had to pry it off and attack it with a knife just to make an impression on it. A tiny jug of gravy helped proceedings here, although a more generous allowance might have been welcomed.
From the specials board came a brie and caramelised onion tart, with crushed new potatoes and salad. A slice of cheese melted enticingly into a good helping of gooey onion jam, all set in a warmed puff-pastry case. This was a tasty, lighter meal which came with an optional pat of butter for the potatoes. The salad was even adorned with half a tomato, which, given the current tomato shortage, was a welcome surprise.
Another main course was sausage and mash – but the kitchen allowed a substitution of mash for chips. A trio of good, meaty sausages came with the promised chips, a further spoonful of the tasty red cabbage, and more gravy.
For desserts, we both chose cinnamon bao buns served with ice cream and toffee sauce, at an astoundingly reasonable £5 each. When these arrived they were cute little deep-fried baos, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, on a drizzle of toffee sauce. The ice cream was a necessary lubricant as the buns were fairly dry inside, but for a fiver nobody was complaining – this was an interesting and enjoyable dessert.
Overall The Crown seems to have found a niche serving basic pub food in a comfortable environment. The service was good, and the prices were very reasonable with both of us dining decently for well under £40 – that’s not easy to do these days.
https://www.facebook.com/CrownShorwell 01983 740293
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Good service
- Reasonable prices
- Decent meaty pie - with proper pastry all round!
- Could've done with a bit more gravy