Corned beef hash provides a surprising treat at former coaching inn


The Old Crown Coaching Inn,

25 Market Place,


SN7 7HU.

Tel: 01367 242744

IT was a quiet and lonely Monday lunchtime when a friend and I stopped off in Faringdon for a bite to eat. The shops (those which were open) were virtually deserted and I could count the number of people we saw out on the streets on one hand.

Yet we were spoiled for choice for places to fill our stomachs, with at least half a dozen pubs and cafes vying for our trade, from a wine bar bistro to an internet cafe and all kinds of everything inbetween.

The Old Crown Coaching Inn caught our attention, with its smart white facade and a green plaque outside announcing that it once provided quarters for Royalist cavalry between 1644 to 1646. We only popped inside for a glance at the menu, but immediately decided to stay. Whether it was the warm welcome from the landlady or the warm shelter from the cold wind outside doesn’t matter; suffice to say it was the right decision and we left very happy with our choice.

The inn has retained many of the features that would have been standard 360-plus years ago - the private nooks and crannies, the low ceiling, the enormous open fireplace - and any more recent additions are very much in keeping. Oil-effect lanterns hanging in the windows and the bumpy flagstone floor all lend a period feel.

The place is currently undergoing a refurbishment, yet somehow the chef had still managed to produce an interesting menu. Among the lunches on offer were everything from very simple sandwiches (cheese and pickle, beef and horseradish, all served with chips or soup for £6.50), right up to devilled whitebait with homemade tartare sauce (£4.95) and fresh egg pasta with walnut pesto (£8.95).

On such a cold day, I was tempted by the venison casserole (£11.50), which promised an accompaniment of crusty bread and an intriguing mustard dressing. It was a satisfying choice, if rather strange to look at; a big bowl of rich meat and vegetables, drizzled with the tangy yellow dressing and plenty of bread to dunk in the sauce.

But my friend’s choice was even better - home cured corned beef hash with red onion and sweetcorn (£8.95). Schoolday memories of corned beef hash prevented me from ordering this, but this dish was nothing like the slop I remember. Chunks of corned beef (made on the premises, our waitress assured us) were interspersed with potato wedges and vegetables, all topped with a sizzling fried egg. It looked fantastic and she tucked in hungrily.

Due to the refurb – and no doubt the lack of custom in the area – there were no desserts on offer that day, but we ordered coffees to round off the meal.

As we drank, we wondered whether it was even worth their while opening on a Monday lunchtime, with only the two of us and another couple to serve.

Probably not, we decided... but we were sure glad they did.