The Crown Hotel, 16 High Street, Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP7 0DH
When we first rolled into Old Amersham it all looked strangely similar as if we’d been here before, and I’m not talking in a spiritual past life kind of way… It’s just that if Mr Hollywood Director wants a quaint sleepy country village, Old Amersham fits the bill perfectly. In fact The Crown had a starring role when Hugh Grant first ‘cuddled’ up with Andie McDowell in one of their rooms in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Amersham, near Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, is a beautiful ancient market town on the edge of the Chiltern Hills but only 27 miles north-west of London. I didn’t realise that you could get there by tube (it’s at the end of the Metropolitan line) and sits snuggly in the London commuter belt, all be it a big leather designer belt judging by the price of the houses and the make of the cars!
Saff and I were celebrating our 1st anniversary and decided last minute to get away for a quiet county break – this turned out to be a lot more difficult than we expected. Firstly, we didn’t realise the new annoying trend of hotels (and even small B&Bs) having a two night minimum stay policy at weekends. Secondly, most of the places recommended to us were fully booked. Recession? What recession? And thirdly, any hotels that had rooms available were out of our budget range, one establishment was charging nearly £425 per night.
We were beginning to feel a little like Mary and Joseph, no Saff’s not about to give birth to the new messiah (this is how rumours start), but there was no room at the inn and a stable was starting to look like the only option… So we Googled ‘hotel + countryside + romantic + bath in room + one night’ just to see what would come up… And bingo! There was The Crown. The only slight disappointment was that all the rooms with those lovely roll top baths were booked, hey ho, never mind.
Our drive around the M25 took us just over an hour and as we turned into Amersham, the first thing we saw was a big modern Tesco! That wasn’t what we wanted, but we needn’t have worried. Literally a one minute drive on and the road is flanked by cute mix n match cottages, larger set back gated houses, timber-framed shops and taking pride of place, almost in the middle of the road, the Market Hall. Take note, that Tesco may come in handy as it’s the only place with a cash machine down that road.
Directly Opposite this was our room for the night… The Crown is (as their website says) ‘part of a family of modern coaching inns, all in historic timber-framed buildings providing eating, drinking, gatherings and lodgings’. We parked the car, although finding the car park was a little tricky (but we have become Sat Nav reliant) and walked past a pretty row of rooms into a beautiful cobblestone courtyard with potted flowers, chunky wooden patio furniture and best of all the Summer kitchen serving BBQ food.
We wandered into reception, and we are immediately struck by its olde world charm. There’s rustic rush matting, Welsh wool throws and mismatched chairs gathered around chunky tables but also a few modern touches, such as the really cool and probably really expensive coated metal free-standing lamps.
Checking in was quick and the receptionist friendly and accommodating. We’d brought a bottle of champagne with us (cheeky I know, but it was given to us on our wedding day) and asked if there was a mini bar in the room. There wasn’t but she said that she would bring up an ice bucket. We made our way up the uneven creaky staircase and almost as soon as we were in our room, there was the receptionist with our promised ice bucket… What service.
Our room was spacious and bright, yet cosy and homely. The group of inns (the nearby-ish Olde Bell Inn being another) were styled by owners Tej and Sarina Dhillon with the help of the celebrated interior designer Ilse Crawford (Soho House New York and Grand Hotel Stockholm to name just two). It was good to see that the room had kept its hot drink making facilities, an iron and a hair dryer, something that a lot of boutique hotels have removed. Saying that, these were hidden away in a cupboard, maybe as they were a little on the old/dated side. Maybe the hotel should invest in some new retro equipment that would suit their otherwise cool interiors.
There were a few classic Penguin books and a retro Roberts radio on the dressing table and a sheepskin throw on a chair. The bathroom was modern, if maybe just a tad tired, but the shower was powerful. It felt as if years of London grime was jet washed away, purifying me for my two days of country living.
I jumped on the bed, nice and firm, I knew we’d sleep well on the pure cotton sheets. My only criticism was that I found the pillows too soft, but that just my opinion. So as we lay on the Jacob’s wool blankets, a glass of champagne in one hand while listening to the chatter of Carl Steer and Lauren Libin drifting in from the courtyard below, a couple of PRs we know that were also enjoying a weekend away at the same time, we had to make a conscious decision to get up and go out…
We walked out into the courtyard and through the large gates that lead to the high street. Turning left, we passed a random mix of shops, an abundance of pubs and houses all nestled together in perfect harmony. When the village road stopped and turned into a country lane, we crossed over and walked back towards the Market Hall. On the way we spotting a little stream and a public footpath and decided to take a short detour. The path took us past a village cricket match and a group of Famous Five-esque children, complete with dog, searching for crayfish in the stream… This really is the village that time forgot!
We cut across a tiny bridge, through the beer garden of The Eagle and past the very highly recommended and very expensive Artichoke restaurant. Had our budget been a bit more sizeable we would have popped in. But it wasn’t so we decided to try out the equally well recommend Seasons Cafe and Deli. It’s amazing little place full of delicious goodies. Saff’s Huevos Rancheros was fab as was my banana milkshake.
After this we ambled back to our room for another glass of champagne and I read the guest directory while Saff got ready for dinner… The inn has had a very troubled past, a couple of fires and a lorry that crashed into the main entrance. It even has a resident ghost who appears by the fire on cold evenings, this grey lady is also known to pack things away in your suitcase!
To quote again from their website ‘The Crown is not a hotel where the rooms dominate, but where the common spaces are the heartbeat of the place’. And the strongest ‘beat’ comes from The Crown Chop House. The whole eating experience was faultless, fantastic meat cooked perfectly in their Josper Oven, a decent bottle of Primitivo and service that other hotel restaurants should aspire to. For our full review please click here.
After our meal we staggered into the cosy bar area to finish our wine, we loved the informal atmosphere and blended in with the other couples who were obviously enjoying their romantic weekend away…
We woke up late in the morning, told you the beds were comfy! Luckily we made it down just in time for breakfast (which is included in the price, a rarity these days), and we’re glad we did. A long wooden table was topped with every breakfast item you could wish for. Fresh juices, cereals, meats and cheese, pastries, muffins, posh yoghurts like we had at Sanctum on the Green, honeycomb… The list goes on! Add to this the cooked breakfast menu and you’ll eat like an Elizabethan King. I ordered the full English, great bacon, better sausages but shame about the poached eggs, one had blistered and when I cut into it water spilt all over my plate. But even this didn’t spoil our breakfast…
We packed our bags (the ghost hadn’t done if for us) and checked out. During the drive home Saff reminded me that we hadn’t had one of the Crown’s Cream Teas or tried a pint of the local Rebellion ale. Well this just gives us the excuse to come back to this beautiful traditional coaching Inn. Just imagine how much more romantic and cosy it would be sat by a roaring open log fire during the winter months, complete bliss ye olde English style.
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Nearest station: Amersham