A few weeks ago, when an email popped into my inbox inviting me to go and have a meal at The Crown, an Ember Inn in Four Oaks I was intrigued. You see, I grew up merely 100 yards from that pub and saw it evolve from a slightly strange place that had three different restaurants inside and was a but like a food court ( this sounds very odd, but if you lived in Four Oaks circa 1995-2000 you will know what I mean!) and then when I was 17 or 18 it was taken over by Ember Inns, just in time for me to spend an incredible amount of my spare time in it! In fact the last time I was there was probably my mid twenties when we won the pub quiz! Given all this, I have hardly ever eaten there so was happy to give it a try and take a trip down memory lane, whilst making some new memories with my little family.
As luck would have it, we visited last weekend when the weather was gorgeous, so were able to sit outside in the copious outdoor area to the front of the pub, which is one of its great features. I remember sitting out there, and always seeming to know someone passing by. It really used to be a social hub of the area, and it certainly still seemed to be.
We sat for a while with our drinks. Lee tried out the Ember Pale Ale, and then later on a Hophouse 13 lager, while I sipped on some Aspall Cider.
Menu wise, it’s typical of most ember inns and pubs of this ilk. There’s a lot of choice but nothing out of the ordinary in terms of food. We began with a couple of the starters – Crispy Calamari with Sweet Chilli and Pineapple Sauce and 1/2 kilo of the Hickory Chicken Wings with Chipotle and Honey Glaze. All too often calamari is cooked to within an inch of its life, so it was great to find this soft and not chewy. I enjoyed the dipping sauce too – the addition of the little chunks of pineapple gave a nice sweet and sour hit. Lee also really enjoyed the wings – and lets not mess about, so did I , as I stole at least 2! The glaze was sweet, smokey and sticky and the wings themselves crispy and moist, so a win in our opinion.
Lee chose a burger for his main course – the Brisket Burger – Chargrilled coarse-ground beef burger topped with a grilled flat mushroom, BBQ pulled beef brisket and Monterey Jack cheese. The burger itself was quite juicy and pretty decent but Lee would have preferred the pulled brisket to have some sauce, as he found it a touch dry.
I was trying to be a bit more virtuous so went for the Crispy Duck Salad – house salad base topped with crispy duck & Hoi Sin sauce finished with spring onion and fresh coriander. The duck itself was really yummy with plenty of the hoi sin sauce. The salad leaves were also dressed with honey and mustard tasting dressing which I found a little out of context flavours wise, but not unpleasant, and I would have like a bit more coriander as I couldn’t really taste any.
Child Friendly? Yes very – theres lots of space both inside and out so plenty of room for prams and highchairs galore. The staff were very welcoming and on the ball with regards to the possible need for a highchair etc, although we used our own. The baby changing facilities were in the disabled loo, which requires a key. I always quite like this, as although it can be annoying to have to ask someone for the key, I always feel the facilities are bit cleaner and more looked after.
Overall a very pleasant lunch in a relaxing and convivial atmosphere. One thing I always remember about the the Crown as it being a friendly, lively neighbourhood pub, and it hasn’t lost it’s charm.
Disclosure: Post in collaboration with Ember Inns – all opinions are honest and our own.