“ Address: Wantage Road (B4494) / Chieveley / Berkshire / RG20 8UE / England „
The Crab at Chievely
While on our recent week end trip to Newbury with friends we went out for a meal at this local restaurant which one of our group members had found on the internet and it had rave reviews about the food offered. I knew nothing about the place before we arrived but it looked quite a nice place from the outside.
We thought it must be good as when we phoned to book they could only offer us either 9 o clock or 6 o clock to eat. This would normally have put us off instantly as we don't like to eat that late at night. If you don't even sit down till 9pm then you are unlikely to eat much before 9.45 in reality which is really very late to digest food before you go to sleep.
We were a little shocked to have to pay £15 for the taxi from the Hilton at Newbury to the restaurant which must have been a five minute journey tops. Having got over that shock we were pleasantly surprised to see what a lovely looking country pub looking place this was. We announced our arrival and we were offered the choice of going to have a drink at our table or sit outside for a drink first. We chose to have a drink outside and enjoy the view of the fields surrounding the restaurant.
We chose our drinks from the drinks menu and then had the food menus brought to us. If my husband and I had been there alone I think we might have made an excuse to leave as the prices on the menu were pretty extortionate.
IN WE GO
After we chose our meals and had had our drinks brought ourt to us the waitress came and said our table was ready. Inside the restaurant is huge but very 'English pub' with beams and cosy atmosphere. It was packed and we wound our way through the entire place and out to the conservatory for our table of eight. We were the only people out there to start with but others did come and join us. By the end of the evening the rest of the place was empty and only the conservatory had anyone still there eating.
AT THE TABLE
We sat ourselves down and were quickly brought some nice tasty bread and butter. We were also brought little 'amuse bouche 'which were very tiny smoked salmon wrapped mouse things which were tasty but tiny. They were very like those you can buy in Tesco at times and the same sort of size. They certainly weren't stunningly much tastier than those I have bought from Tesco in the past. Anyway they disappeared pretty darn quickly and we also demolished the bread and asked for more, even those who had opted for the starters.
These ranged from around £7 for a teriyaki bream with pak choi to £13.50 for half a dozen oysters. We had a little discussion as to whether we were going to be going for starters or desserts and having seen the prices of the starters we asked for the dessert menu so we could make a decision based on knowledge of what was on offer later. The desserts were around £6 so I opted for a dessert but my husband thought he would go for a starter and the rest of our group varied as well.
My husband chose the smoked Goosnargh duck with marinated fennel and Pernod dressing. I have no idea what a Goosenaugh duck is but it must be pretty darn special as this cost £8.25 and as my husband said it was so small that the entire pile of thin sliced smoked duck would have fitted on a teaspoon and if he had sneezed it would have shot off the plate.
The person sitting next to me went for the Salcombe Crab & Macaroni Cheese Gratin which was £8.75. It came in the shape of a small ramekin and looked pretty much like mac 'n' cheese to me and I was very pleased that I hadn't chosen that to spend nearly £9 on. Nobody ordered the Mussels Mariniere, White Wine & Garlic Cream at £9.50 which usually comes in a huge bowl and makes a pretty decent meal, I imahine here you might be lucky to get half a dozen if you are lucky but that is only my guess.
These ranged in price from the vegetarian Baked Aubergine & Parmesan, Roasted Courgette, Lime & Coriander Cous Cous at £15.75 through to the Lobster, Thermidor, Lemon Butter, Garlic Butter, or Sweet Chill Whole At £39.00 or half at £20, Steak was £28.50. I chose the Steamed Sea Bass, Crab & Citrus Stuffing, Warm Niçoise Salad at £22.00 and my husband chose the Slow Cooked Hake, Spring Bean & Girolle Fricassee, Pomme Rosti at £17.95. I can't remember what others selected. Bare in mind the price of these dishes I was pretty shocked to find out that if we wanted any vegetables they would have to be ordered as extra side orders at £3.50 per dish. We ordered six between the eight of us to share.
I was pretty stunned at the size of my meal. I had a really small piece of fish about 2 inches wide and about six inches long which sat on a few new potatoes and some raw onion with a couple of tiny bits of egg white which I rejected as I hate eggs and hadn't looked at what came with the sea bass that carefully. I am not sure what happened to the crab and citrus stuffing as I struggled to find it. The fish was very nice and I enjoyed the half dozen mouthfuls I had.
The side dishes were chunky chips and I tell no lie each little dish had about four chunky chips in it, I had one chip and about half a dozen mange tout as my share of the side orders.
These were mostly £6 and I chose the crème brule which is the dessert I always choose if it is on the menu. There was also a mixed plate of desserts at £14 for two to share which four of the group selected and another chose the cheese platter which was £8.50. Those who ordered the mixed plates didn't manage to finish all that was on there , not because they were full I imagine but rather because there was quite a lot of cream spread around making it all a bit rich. My crème brule was okay, it came in a largish bowl and was not deep so I got a lot of sugar topping and I would have preferred a deeper and slightly thicker crème brule itself rather than a layer of caramel.
The cheese board went down well but you can't really mess up cheese and biscuits can you.
The drinks were a price to match the meal with a bottle of wine costing £20 and other drinks equally high end prices.
The Crab at Chievely has been awarded Top Table 2011 rated by online reviewers. It has also been awarded the AA Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2005, Rémy Martin Restaurant Award 2006, Two AA Restaurant Rosettes 2006, Conde Nast Johansens Recommended, Best Loved Hotel 2008 and was a Finalist in the Publican Good Food Awards 2006.
On the site there are several links to press coverage as well if you are interested.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
It is a classy restaurant but you pay for that. I personally have a thing about being charged extra for vegetables etc with a meal. That is a meal not just a piece of fish. Okay don't put it on the plate but bring the side dishes to share for the table and this should be part of the meal. To have to pay £3.50 extra on top of a very expensive meal is a rip off in my view.
Our share of the bill for the eight of us came to £100 and I had had one glass of wine, two sparkling waters, my husband had two beers and between us we had one starter, two mains and one dessert. That is a pretty darned expensive meal out in my humble opinion. I don't mind paying for something special or for the experience of eating somewhere famous but this was a country gastro pub similar to the one in our village. I thought that was expensive but at least we don't leave from there feeling hungry.
My suggestion is take your credit card and eat before you go, don't go when feeling hungry as you will still be hungry when you leave. I wasn't hungry but my husband was starving!!
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The Crab at Chieveley near Berkshire is one of the nicest places you could go for a romantic night away. It is an award winning seafood restaurant but also a fabulous down to earth hotel with 14 uniquely designed rooms.
We visited last year for our anniversary but only stayed the one night as we were visiting family the next day, I'm not sure what there is to visit in the area so I'm not sure a longer stay is recommended. Don't be fooled by the exterior pictures on the website, this is a gorgeous establishment brimming with character.
All the rooms are themed and vary in price, we stayed in the Bora Bora room which was all bamboo oriented but had the added bonus of a private garden with hot tub. We had brought our own champagne and simply asked for an ice bucket and spent the first 2 hours chilling out in the hot tub (I had been driving for 4 hours!). You are secluded from your neighbours but I strongly suggest manoeuvring the parasol so that it blocks out any peeping toms in the room directly above. The room itself was fine, usual bits of extras, tea/coffee etc and I recall the bathroom being nice and modern. I did have problems with the shower heat but I think it was user error rather than a fault.
We had pre-booked dinner in the restaurant and I can honestly say (and I am a qualified chef!) that it was in my top 10 favourite meals ever. The dining area is like something from a galleon from Pirates of the Caribbean and gives you instant confidence in the food you are about to be served. I was so delighted as I was expecting the rooms to be the memorable part of the trip but every time we recall the visit we always talk about the mussels we had to start. You may think that mussels are mussels but these were clearly fresh as a daisy and the sauce was to die for. My partner then had scallops and I had roasted halibut. Now, the prices on the website may put some people off as the main courses are circa £20 but this is why I recommend this place as a real treat, if you can afford to spend £100 on a meal then good for you but otherwise save your money and you won't be disappointed. I loathe paying ridiculous money for hyped up food but this was one of those rare occasions where I genuinely felt it was worth it.
I had read several reviews myself before booking and the general consensus was that the food was great but service was poor. I do have a habit of service watching (can't help it, ex chefs area nightmare!) and I did think that the service on tables of 4 or more was very slow. We had finished our 3 course meal before some of the tables had received their starters. As a table of two though we were very impressed with our waitress.
The room was £190 but did include breakfast. Only 5 of the 14 rooms have hot tubs hence we paid a bit more for the privilege. It made the room more interesting and I think without it we would have either gone to the bar for 2 hours and got too drunk or just watched TV, not quite what you want on an anniversary!
There is also an equivalent restaurant/hotel in North Yorkshire, the Crab and Lobster which we may visit soon however it is only 10 minutes drive for us!