The Crown, Hawes, North Yorkshire


Food quality: 7

Ambience: 8

Service: 8

Covid security: 8

Value for money: 7

“TONIGHT,” shouted Shane Ritchie on I’m A Celebrity… as the contestants won the maximum number of meals in a gruesome challenge, “we eat like kings and queens.”

And so on the first weekend after being freed from the second lockdown, we got ourselves out of our corner of North Yorkshire and back into the wider world, driving through snow dusted Swaledale and over snow ploughed Buttertubs before dropping Hawes to visit the Crown.

Would we eat like royalty?

We sat beneath kings and queens – several pictures of Tudor monarchs stared down on us, with Henry VIII looking as if he had enjoyed plenty of good meals. A woodburner at one end of the bare floorboarded bar and a real fire at the other competed with each other to keep the place warm, but still people preferred to brave the outside benches beneath the Alpine blue sky.

The Crown has both a tearoom-style menu and a restaurant menu. From the tearoom, sandwiches are £7.50 or with a soup £12; coffee and cake is £7.50. From the restaurant, a Rotisserie Barbecue Chicken is £17.95 rising to a T Bone steak for £35.95 or an Ultimate Surf n Turf for £38.95. The market in Hawes can obviously sustain high prices.

We, though, found items to suit our daytrip pockets from a menu that liked to drench its dishes with cheese, but also had a pretty good range of vegetarian dishes.

From the starters menu, Grandma had the Traditional Armagnac Chicken Liver Pate (£7.95). There was oodles of really good pate – the brandy made it not too strident – and a large pot of nice onion chutney with peppercorns which gave surprise bursts of flavour.

But there were only two medallions of crusty bread. Even though it was a starter, the quantity of pate and chutney dwarfed the surface area of the bread. To consume all the pate, she would have needed to layer it an inch thick on the bread and top it with a massive mound of chutney.

I, though, managed to smuggle the uneaten pate home and thoroughly enjoyed what was left of it for my tea, where, at ample thickness, it covered a full slice of farmhouse toast.

Petra had the homemade vegetarian quiche (£12.95) which, full of broccoli, red peppers, onions and cheese, almost lived up to its description on the menu as “fabulous”.

Genevieve, our daughter, had the Old Peculier Steak Pie (£13.95), served in a white and blue enamel dish, with plenty of steak and loads of gravy inside the pie and poured on top of it. So much gravy, in fact, that when she’d finished her meat, there was still a centimetre or so of liquid at the bottom of the dish and no way to get it out. I’d have drunk it with the stirring spoon from my tea, but she has more class than her father.

Theo, as ever, happily devoured his haddock and chips (£12.95). Four of us had chips – three skinny fries plus Theo’s chip shop variety – and they were all superb. Beautifully hot, golden and crispy on the outside, and light and so fluffy on the inside there was almost nothing there.

I had chosen the Classic Crown Burger (£13.95), going for the cheddar and bacon option rather than Blue Stilton and BBQ.

With the bacon and the cheese over the thick meat and a layer of halved tomatoes beneath acting like ball bearings, the burger was nearly as tall as my mobile phone. It was therefore too tall to fit into my mouth without dislocating my jaw, and unstable due to the swivelling tomatoes.

Surely the point of a burger is that the bread bun (a very nice yellowy brioche in this case) is the means of transporting it to one’s mouth, and therefore you shouldn’t need knives and forks.

And, like the fish and chips, it was served on a red and white chequered piece of greaseproof paper. “It makes it look very pretty,” said one of our party, but as I chopped it up, and as Theo cut through his fish, the paper began to disintegrate.

Still, even with added paper, the burger represented a nice combination of tastes, with a creamy mayonnaise sauce and a goodly chunk of modestly pickled gherkin.

Service was friendly and prompt. We had been greeted on entry, there was plenty of handwash, and the pub was big and uncrowded enough for us to have no social distancing concerns.

Royalty wouldn’t have cause to turn its nose up at the food at the Crown – although paupers like us probably feel it is a little pricey.

However, outside, against the icy blue sky, the nearby daletops were dusted with brilliant icing sugar snow while every fold of the faraway hills was covered in a contour-hugging blanket, and the low, setting sun bathed the bare branches of the crystallised trees in gold. It was a view most certainly worth setting before a king.