It’s all go at The Old Crown Coaching Inn in Faringdon when I arrive, builders clambering up and down the scaffolding outside, plasterers at work in the restaurant, painters applying the finishing touches to the gleaming new wooden bar.
Go back a few hundred years and you might have found Oliver Cromwell here or Hanging Judge Jeffreys who used the 16th century inn as a court house – the condemned being hung outside in the yard.
But come April when it reopens, The Old Crown will be unrecognisable, the first phase of the refurb completed, the transformation downstairs complete.
“with new head chef Sam Squires on board, the food looks set to be epic”
Gone are the fruit machines, fake wood panelling and patterned carpets of yesterday, replaced by a refreshing and contemporary feel. Sat in the quiet and recently decorated bar amidst a scattering of locals drinking real ale, sit new owners Nick Evans and his son Sebastiaan, alongside business partner Andy Clarke.
“Yes it’s quite a project,” Nick says drily. “It’s a massive undertaking, so we are completing our plans in phases.”
So what can we expect? A cosy market bar complete with roaring fire, an 80 seater restaurant, a new cocktail/wine bar area, an al fresco dining courtyard and 14 rooms upstairs, all of which need extensive renovation. There are also plans to convert the stable block into a further eight rooms.
And with a state-of-the-art new kitchen ordered for new head chef Sam Squires, the food looks set to be epic.
Nick and Seb already run the wonderful Black Horse in Standlake, and the Waggon and Horses in Southmoor, as The Westbrook Pub Company, but The Old Crown will be a much bigger venture.
So why here and why now? “We’ve been looking for a Freehouse for a while, to give us more flexibility,” Nick says, “and we signed in December.”
“So what to expect – a cosy market bar, 80 seater restaurant, new cocktail/wine bar area, al fresco dining courtyard and 14 rooms upstairs”
“I’ve lived around here for a long time,” Seb continues, “and there’s a real noise about Faringdon at the moment. It’s turning into a really exciting place to live with lots of new housing, a bustling market and brilliant bus service, so there’s no excuse not to come here now,” he grins.
Lots of new hospitality businesses have certainly opened in Faringdon including Gin To My Tonic, Las Chicas, The Narrows cocktail bar, Floyds Grill and The Bell (the latter c/o Oxford’s Jolly Postboys crew). A new dessert parlour is on the cards and The The Viceroy is already well established, so it’s a definitely an up-and-coming town from a culinary point of view.
“there’s a real noise about Faringdon at the moment. It’s turning into a really exciting place to live”
And what can we expect of Sam Squires of Hibiscus fame? “We are very excited about him,” Nick tells me. ‘He recently won ‘Chef of the Year’ at the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards 2020/21, so we are really lucky to have him. Think high end gastropub food with some pub classics and sharing plates on the menu, while the cocktail bar will offer snacks and charcuterie.”
And with that they are off to wrangle with the builders about the monks tunnel leading from the pub to the church, and the deep well they have just unearthed, while preparing for their grand reopening in April. We will be there with bells on.
Watch this space for more news, chef interview and completed look!