Times are hard for village pubs, or so everyone tells us. The news seems always to be about village pubs closing, being converted into residential dwellings and stripping away what was once the beating heart of that rural community. However, Ham’s newly resuscitated Crown & Anchor rips a very large question mark right through that line of conventional wisdom.
News of a Free House reopening – the Crown & Anchor Inn has just come back to life in picturesque and rural Ham, run by experienced managers and kitchen staff, offering a keenly priced and attractive menu with classic dishes supplemented by an enticing range of mains and specials, all in a beautifully refurbished old building – comes as welcome relief to those who value going out to a local pub.
Described as a ‘Traditional Village Pub with Rooms’ the success the Crown & Anchor has enjoyed since its quiet reopening in June flies in the face of what we’ve been told over recent years, even more so when learning that the launch was backed by minimal advertising or promotion. There is plenty of life in the village pub yet (or in Ham anyway) and forecasts of its demise are far wide of the mark if what’s on offer matches or surpasses what the customer expects or wants.
Head Chef Phil Bayliss, formerly a head chef at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage and with Marco Pierre White before that, enthusiastically explained how the menu, its pricing and its delivery, were critical to the success of the pub.
His menu sets out to showcase excellent local produce with emphasis on provenance and quality. Always the finest seasonal ingredients sourced locally wherever possible from a range of carefully selected suppliers.
Phil has created a menu for all tastes and expectations, offering adaptations of simple classics such as Wiltshire lamb shepherds pie or Ham Ale battered fish with hand cut chips alongside imaginatively created main dishes – the top price being £17.50 – and an ever-changing range of similarly priced daily specials.
The menu is priced competitively, in keeping with what would be expected elsewhere so that there will be something attractive and affordable on offer for everyone without that moment of fear striking when the bill arrives.
Of course, that cold shudder of fear could arrive if the upper ranges of the wine list had been explored with vigour, but that’s not absolutely necessary unless one of the carefully selected exclusive vintages catches the eye.
The beers on offer from the tap are all local including the Crown & Anchor’s unique brew, Ham 1840 Bitter supplied by Betteridge’s Brewery in Hurstbourne Tarrant, alongside an extensive range of real ales supplied by Penton Park Brewery from nearby Penton Mewsey.
Rather than drive home? There are now five rooms available for guests, all luxury en-suite with supremely comfortable Hypnos beds and breakfast to look forward to the next morning.
The old Crown & Anchor had been closed for a long time and its most recent incarnation was as the Indigo Palace, an Asian restaurant which shut in 2016. Rather than let it be sold for residential development two Ham residents took the risk and decided to buy the site and, armed with a vision to create a pub that offered what local residents, tourists, visitors to the area and anyone wanting to enjoy everything that a excellent traditional local pub could offer set about turning that into the new Crown & Anchor Inn.
Nearly four years later The Crown & Anchor reopened after extensive and detailed renovation and restoration work carried out to the original 1840 structure.
Now resplendant in custom made oak fittings, antiques (sourced mainly from Hungerford) and with original works of art hanging throughout the bar / restaurant area by artists including Liz Somerville and Kate Anniss, as well as a striking Kate Boxer original of a wolf in the main bar (celebrating Ham’s first resident Wulfgar – or translated as Wolf Spear), the Crown & Anchor has the feel of a pub full of character and appeal due to the care and thought that have gone into making it a reality.
A local pub to visit and enjoy? The Crown & Anchor certainly ticks all the key boxes, it appears to represent what a traditional good village pub should be, but is there a downside?
Yes – you’ll probably need to book to get a table…..