Weekends are usually either about hibernation or we go all out and make a day of it somewhere and this weekend was one of those days. Myself, Nonna, Bear, Rowan and Alyssa (all very presentable I might add) hopped into the car and activated the wonderful Doris (the official name I have given to the woman on Google Maps) and headed off in search of The Crown at Bransgore in Christchurch, Dorset. I had never been to this particular pub before as it isn’t particularly close but when I mentioned it to a few friends they had said that it was quite a nice quaint little place really. Part of the Vintage Inns family, it was one of those pubs you could predict as you walked in – fussy carpet, dark, low lighting and that old pub smell – or that’s how it used to be. We were invited along for lunch last week to take a look at it’s amazing new renovation.
WOW! On arrival I have to say the pub looks gorgeous. It is nestled quite happily into the side of the road and looks quite perfectly situated. Now, obviously I hadn’t see it before (though whilst there someone was kind enough to show me some pictures of what it had looked like before) but what I saw now was brilliant. I am a huge fan of the old Colonial American style houses and this is exactly what it looked like just on a larger scale. A lovely pale green and cream wooden outside – all the old features but looking fresh, a lovely garden to the side with plenty of seating which is also fenced in from the car park meaning little ones cannot escape and the whole picturesque look is finished with a beautiful old weeping willow tree draped along side.
There is a lovely sign in front of the entrance (which FYI is flat and fully accessible for pushchairs, wheel chairs etc) welcoming everyone to the pub from the managers. Walking in you come face to face with a gorgeous little nook of comfy looking chairs, cushions and tables – light and airy but cosy too. We were greeted at the bar by the manager who confirmed our booking and came round to show us to our table. Although it was early lunch time, the pub was already bustling, lively and busy though not over whelming at all. Tables were not overly far apart but you didn’t feel like you were on top of anyone at all and through clever design like half walls and the original beams, it almost felt like each table was in it’s own little area.
The decor is so cleverly done and is a mixture of original features with industrial modern touches which blend beautifully together to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for the whole family. The tables are all nicely laid for your arrival and we were promptly supplied with a highchair as well as a colouring book and pencil case full of coloured pencils which awarded the manager the first charming smile from Alyssa that day.
One of the best parts of this pub arrived next in the form of Matt, our server who introduced himself and was lovely and friendly and immediately told us of any stipulations to the menu (e.g. running low on etc.) and asked us if he could get any drinks whilst we decided what we would be eating. There is a really large selection of wines, bubbly, beers, ciders, non-alcoholics including mocktails and LOTS AND LOTS OF GIN! If I had been out with my girlfriends I’d have been trying them all but I stuck to a non-alcoholic cider and was happy. PARENTING POINT: Yes they had your standard sugar laden fruit-shoots but they also head healthy pure fruit options for kids too which I thought was excellent. Another new feature they added in with the remodel was that all orders are done electronically on what looks like a little phone which Matt mentioned was a great addition and definitely helped with efficiency and good service.
Being a vegetarian, I always immediately scan a menu to see what I can actually eat and was so pleased to see quite a number of options for us veggies but not only that, they weren’t your bog standard options that are the same in every sodding place we go and are actually sick of. There was a lovely sounding risotto, a really different type of burger, pizza, salads and tarts and I had a hard time choosing as did everyone else. We were quite boring and 3 of us all chose the Oven Baked Portobello & Button Mushrooms and Bear (who is the only non-veggie) chose the Calamari. OH MY GOSH – we were all blow away by those mushrooms. Baked in a sort of clay dish, they were ooey goooey and cheesy and dripping in garlic, served with lightly toasted slices of focaccia and proper butter. They were divine and I would quite happily have ordered three more for my main. Rowan liked them so much I caught him sneakily wiping his dish around with his finger to be sure he didn’t miss anything! Bear loved the Calamari and thought it was a nice light starter that wasn’t too heavy and again was only sorry there wasn’t more!
We actually asked for Alyssa’s main to come out with our starters so she wasn’t kept waiting (she can be a slow eater so it would time well.) There were two options for her as a vegetarian, tomato pasta or cheese and tomato pizza which are pretty standard only choices wherever you go – though if your child isn’t a veggie the options are fantastic. What arrived was a hugely generous portion of a proper stonebaked pizza and triple cooked chips which we added a side of dippy dip (tomato sauce) to and we didn’t really hear from her again until the end of the meal (I did happen to bring Frozen for her to watch quietly on our portable DVD player during dinner – #sorrynotsorry !) For £5.00 I have to say it was amazing value for a child’s meal and they will not be going home hungry.
We mixed it up a little with the mains and Rowan and I both ordered the adults margherita pizza and fries, Nonna ordered the Courgette, Carrot & Chickpea Burger and Bear had the Wagyu Burger with Sweet Potato Fries. All our mains came out together (huge bug bear of mine when places trickle meals out) and after being a good blogger and taking a few pictures for you all we tucked in. You could tell our pizzas were stone baked as they had that crisp puffiness to them and were light and not at all greasy as some can be and we also enjoyed the triple cooked chips too – presentation of the pizzas on gorgeous boards was lovely and are automatically served with a steak knife which was handy for cutting them up. For a pub pizza it was pretty up there and a very generous sized portion.
Nonna’s thoughts on her burger were “Ooo it’s really delicious and moist.When I read the description I was worried it would be dry but it’s nice and crispy on the outside and moist inside and the broad bean hummus went perfectly. It was kind of like falaffel but better. The chips were lovely and chippy and the homestyle onion rings are some of the nicest I have ever had! If I wasn’t so full I could definitely eat that again!” Two thumbs up from Nonna again.
Bear then chimed in with his thoughts on the Wagyu Burger; “I’ve always wanted to try Wagyu and I wasn’t disappointed. It was delicious and a proper burger burger if you know what I mean. These onion rings are the best – can I have more?! Sweet Potato fries… nom nom nom! Oh and there was a horseradish slaw on the side. I don’t do veg but it was actually alright – especially the grated horseradish on top!” Man of many words is our Bear but he did enjoy it!