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The Crown & Anchor, Ham

Is this the best Sunday roast in Wiltshire? We reckon this cosy, foodie pub near Hungerford has it nailed.

THE LOWDOWN

A foodie inn on a picture-perfect village green close to the Wiltshire/Berkshire border near Hungerford. It was rescued from closure and beautifully refurbished in 2020 by a couple of local families.

THE VIBE

Allegedly the home of The Archers – one of the first writers is said to have ear-wigged conversations here for the radio drama. And you can certainly imagine it: pint-drinking locals at the bar; a family reunion finishing off lunch with a game of cards round a long table. Tasteful-traditional interiors, gorgeous oak panelling, flagstone floors, antique furniture, a roaring wood-burner and friendly staff await you.

SCOFF & QUAFF

But this is more than just a village pub, it’s a proper foodie destination. Oh my, the food is punching well above its weight and shoots this place to the top of our list over the course of one greedy Sunday lunch. We went for the roasts obvs: the black treacle cured beef sirloin, sourced from Vicars Game down the road in West Berks, was terrific – tender and flavoursome and immediately competes for best ever. How do they get humble vegetables to taste like that? I enquired and was told something about roasting and butter, but frankly I was too busy cramming down carrots to remember. This is why we go out to eat, so someone can feed us something we just couldn’t do ourselves.

My companions were similarly enthusiastic about the roast pork –  fennel seed and lemon marinated loin – and reluctant to share, particularly the crackling. And can we just say, significant words when it comes to roasts, extra gravy. It arrived unrequested, which is surprisingly rare.

Puddings of treacle sponge with banana sorbet and apple & blackberry crumble were also pretty darned perfect. All traditional British food, but done with a modern twist and just a whiff of fine dining. Happy to say that whiff is in the quality, not the portions, which are hearty. Maybe fine dining is too prissy a term for this; maybe this is just downright talent. We reckon chef Gert Pienaar might just be a name to watch. It’s not the cheapest, but as it might well be the best it’s still good value.

During the week the menu is pub classics, done impeccably: beer battered fish, Caesar salad, burgers, mixed in with high-end specials with an emphasis on local game: wood pigeon with black pudding, venison haunch, often squid or scallops. The wine list is a decent length and starts around £20; we tried an unfamiliar South African rosé at the lower price end, and were impressed.

These days most restaurants talk-the-talk about sourcing local ingredients, but here it’s the real thing. Their totally tempting Local & Wild Supper on 11th November sources everything from within 40 miles, and by the look of the menu (Savernake mushroom, Wiltshire truffle, West Berks brown trout) I suspect much of it is even closer, and comes with an optional English wine flight too.

STAY

Eight lovely en-suite bedrooms are classily furnished, and a tempting proposition for a weekend break (indeed, they were a Muddy Awards finalist for Best Boutique Stay). They also manage a couple of holiday cottages in the village. Finding 100 Acres hand wash/cream in the bathrooms always makes us happy.

PRIVATE DINING

A brand new private dining room is available for hire, and suitable for socials and work do-s with a projector, sound system and french windows opening onto the pretty terrace. It’s a lovely space, and, seating up to 20, would be perfect for Christmas meals.

You’re surrounded by the North Wessex Downs here – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so combine your meal or stay with one of the many great walks from the door. The whole place is dog-friendly, so no need to leave fido behind. We’re always looking for places to meet London friends half-way – this is just perfect for that, and we can’t wait to return.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Truly exceptional food worth travelling for. Meeting London friends half-way. A picture-perfect rural mini-break. Private dining for work/friends/family.

Not for: Those who don’t appreciate good food or don’t like dogs in pubs. Those who just want to watch the footie.

The Damage: Around £75 for a two-course meal for two with wine. Worth every penny.

The Crown & Anchor, Ham, Wiltshire, SN8 3RB

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