The village pub near Bristol with a stunning beer garden and must-book baby showers
The afternoon teas are popular and the baby showers are booked up for the next five months
It doesn’t look that much from the road, but The Crown in Saltford hides plenty of secrets, not least the fact it has one of the biggest and best beer gardens for miles.
And then there’s the Buddha Tea Barn, a special room set aside for must-book afternoon teas and bridal and baby showers so popular that you’ll be lucky to get a booking for the next five months.
This former coaching inn on the road between Bristol and Bath is very much a pub for all.
From the bar with its huge real fire and stylish separate restaurant to the huge beer garden and suntrap courtyard flanked by mature olive trees, it has broad appeal all year round.
When we arrived, there were a few pint-quaffing locals at high tables in the front bar, a couple staying warm and cosy by the fire and several families with teenage children in the restaurant.
A Greene King pub, it has been run for several years by Carl Say, who previously ran The Lock Keeper at Keynsham and The Jolly Sailor at Kelston Lock in Saltford.
This week, Carl announced that he had also just bought The Bird in Hand in Saltford, a pub that has been in the same family for 36 years.
He takes over next month and has big plans for it, although he says he’s nervous about changing too much too soon or he’ll face wrath of the locals who love the place as it is.
I’ve no doubt he’ll make a great job of The Bird in Hand, as he has at The Crown, which now draws customers from as far as Weston-super-Mare for the food.
Chef Matt Freer has worked for Carl for 21 years at various pubs and his menu covers all the right bases and price points.
The pizza menu is good value from £10.50-£13.50, and there are homemade pies including the best-selling steak, ale and mushroom or chicken and chorizo (both £15.95) - all served with vegetables and a choice between chips, new potatoes and mash.
There’s a pub grub menu with old favourites like ham, egg and chips (£12), fish and chips (£13.95), 8oz sirloin steak with grilled tomato, mushroom, chips and onion rings (£19.50).
I went for ‘Matt’s famous beef and bean chilli’ (£12.95) - a rich and mildly spiced chilli with large chunks of tender beef, several types of bean, a blanket of melted cheese bubbling away on top and slices of toasted ciabatta on the side. On a dark and snowy evening, it was a proper winter warmer.
Although I stuck to red wine (the Malbec is excellent), there is an extensive range of lagers, ciders, around 70 gins and three real ales - The Crown Best Bitter, Abbot Ale and Greene King’s IPA.
I’m told there are plans to spruce up the front of The Crown in keeping with the stylish interior.
Until then, it’s likely people will continue to drive past without giving the place a second glance.
Of course, those who have already been inside and spotted that incredible garden will be making plans for revisits as soon as the weather warms up.
In some ways, they’ll be hoping The Crown remains under the radar but then this welcoming, well-run pub is simply too good not to share.
The Crown, 500 Bath Road, Saltford, BS31 3HJ. Tel: 01225 872728.