JOHANNA HAMILTON takes the family to a favourite pub as she celebrates being 21 (again)

THE Wheatsheaf Inn at Crudwell isn’t my nearest pub (it’s four miles from home), but it’s certainly my favourite.

I have never had a bad meal there. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, every meal I’ve had there has been nothing short of excellent.

It’s around 17 miles from the centre of Swindon and is a very pleasant drive through open countryside and woodland punctuated by little villages.

The pub itself is an extended Georgian building which houses not only (arguably) the best pub in the village, it also has a Post Office (open Monday to Wednesday) and even a defibrillator!

When not poised to save lives, the Wheatsheaf also makes a delightful assortment of coffees and a few cakes. So, if you’d like to meet up with friends and enjoy a very sociable morning coffee or a more relaxed afternoon tea, then the Wheatsheaf Inn is more than happy to oblige.

I visited in early February as a birthday celebration for yours truly, featuring my parents and my children. I often feel that having three generations to please is a tough ask for any restaurant/pub, but the Wheatsheaf did so admirably.

Our “usual” table was booked next to the fire, with corner banquette seating for the children and comfy chairs for the adults. There’s a choice of house reds, and I opt for the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is very palatable after a dry January.

My father went for the super cold Stowford Press and my mother, a sedate orange Henry.

Now for the only criticism I have of the Wheatsheaf… there are no children’s drinks. Yes, there are juices and H2Os, and even shots of lime cordial, but no sugary E-number drenched drinks for small people. My children were content with tap water, which is probably better for their teeth, but it isn’t as much of a treat!

As it was my birthday, and no holds barred, I ordered the deep fried camembert wedges with cranberry dip. Although my cardiologist might well disagree, I say you can’t go wrong with deep fried cheese – and a small salad garnish – and yes, it was gooily, melt in the mouth sublime.

My parents had the garlic pan fried mushrooms with bacon on toast, and they too were revelling in the taste.

My children (aged seven and five) are more main course and pudding kinda girls, so they opted for the battered fish and chips – and this was brought out at the same time as our starters. The batter was golden and crisp and the white fish fillets just fell apart, cooked to perfection.

The chips too, were golden on the outside with an achingly wonderful crunch, and hot, soft, fluffy insides. The waitress also brought over two teaspoons for chasing peas around the plate, as so often happens.

As a vegetarian, it is my God given right to change the menu in any way I please. Toby and his team always have a good handful of veggie dishes that they will adapt on request.

In the spirit of being a difficult customer, I asked for chips with my mushroom stroganoff, rather than basmati rice (yes, before you write in, I know I’m a heathen, but OMG the crisp chips with the creamy mushroomy sauce is absolutely to die for... I think my cardiologist would agree).

My parents had the fish and chips – pretty much identical to the children’s version, but a much larger portion – and Wiltshire ham, egg and chips.

The plates were piled high. Everything was cooked absolutely to perfection and all the meals were piping hot. We all agreed that the meals were so delicious, that we all ate more than we should – but it was my birthday, and you’re not 21 again every day.

Although I didn’t keep tabs on specific prices, there were five of us, we all had two courses and a drink – and the bill came to a more than reasonable £72.

Veggie main courses are around £10 and there are normally at least three options, including stroganoff, lasagne, three bean chilli, curry and a burger.

Meaty options range from sirloin steak with onion rings, chips and peas (£17.50) to specials such as scampi and chips or fish pie (£10). For pensioners, or people with smaller appetites, there are light bites from around £7.50, or filled baguettes, soup and sandwiches for around the £8 mark.

The pub itself consists of a bar area with seven tables for between four and six people. There is also a dining area towards the back of the pub which seats 14 across four tables.

There is covered outdoor seating, overlooking fields, where smoking is permitted. The toilets are in the hallway on the way into the pub (and can be a tad cold on a winter’s night).

There is a function room available, separate to the bar and restaurant, and everything after the initial step that has a ramp fitted, is on one level, making it ideal for people with mobility problems or wheel chairs.

It’s a great village pub, that serves fantastic pub meals and the host and his family are incredibly welcoming. I truly can’t rate it highly enough.

The Wheatsheaf Inn

Kingsgate House, The Street, Crudwell, Malmesbury SN16 9ET

Tel: 01666 577739

Parking: Large car park to the rear and on street parking.

Disabled access: Yes. A portable wheelchair ramp is available on request to negotiate the front step.

Our ratings:

Food: 10/10

Choice: 9/10

Décor: 10/10

Customer service: 10/10

Main course prices: from £8.75-£17.50.

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5/5