Food Review: The Crown Inn, Hillfoot Road, Totley, Sheffield S17 3AX

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Fresh menu and six-day opening brings punters flocking back to Totley landmark

Gromit was having a grueller.

He’d walked miles, fetched sticks and splashed in puddles all afternoon.

Then he had to lie still and quiet in the pub while his master ate a Sunday roast and quaffed a beer or three.

It’s a dog’s life sometimes.

Luckily a dog’s life at the Crown Inn, Totley is a pretty good one.

New landlords the Halsall family welcome walkers and keep part of the pub for dog lovers and provide a bowl of water for Gromit as he keeps a watchful eye on a black Labrador called Rufus who’s a bit nearer the fire than he is…

Jack Halsall has had the place since April and reckons takings are up by 62 per cent since he and his family took over, changed the menu and the opening hours and offered food at ‘reasonable prices’ six days a week.

“The place was completely refurbished 18 months ago, tables, chairs, carpets, bar and toilets,” said Jack, aged 24 next Monday, from Barnsley and a partner in the Halsall family businesses Tykes Taverns and Tykes Inns.

They also have the Top Red Lion in Grenoside, the Lindhill Tavern in Hemingfield, the Old Moor Tavern in Broomhill, Barnsley, the Ash Inn at Wombwell, and the Old Red Lion Country Inn in Worsbrough Common.

“The people who had it before us couldn’t get it going and I think they fell out of love with the industry. Punch Taverns, who we rent other places from, asked if we would be interested in running the Crown.

“We changed the food offer and streamlined the menu. We also decide what the menu is and how the food goes out rather than the chefs.

“That way if a chef leaves we can make sure that the food quality and presentation stays the same.

“We get our meat from Hatfields butchers in Sheffield, our pies, puddings and other things from Billy’s Hill Farm Shop in Hemingfield, Barnsley.

“Consistency, value and quality are what people want and we try to give them that. Most of the things on our menu, 85 per cent, are home-made.

“There’s the Cross Scythes and the Cricket Inn nearby who both do what they do very well but there was nowhere in the area to get an interesting and decent meal without spending what a lot of people consider to be a lot of money.

“We went back to basics and made the opening hours regular again - we now open 12 to 11 from Tuesday to Sunday.

“We’re busy most days and in the evenings. People seem to like it.”

The Crown is built on what used to be the main road from Sheffield to London and according to the Totley History Group the building is over 300 years old and has been a pub since around 1813.

It has the low ceilings, log fires and old-world feel that new money can’t buy and a decent pint of Farmers Blonde that it can.

So what about the food?

Hannah had a prawn cocktail starter which had bags of tiny prawns in a thousand Island dressing and lettuce, all acceptable, fresh and tasty enough.

I had the chef’s combination platter which had garlic bread that was slightly anaemic but pleasant enough, breaded mushrooms that were succulent, crisp outside and lightly spiced.

There were spicy breadcrumbed chicken wings that were hot, hot, hot and home-made onion rings, crunchy and sweet with a garlic mayonnaise and a sweet chilli dip.

All good but without that extra something to lift them out of the ordinary.

Then came the real disappointment which was explained later but at the time was quite a blow.

I ordered the ‘mighty’ fish and chips which was meant to be a large cod.

For me one of life’s great pleasures is to sit down to fish and chips where the fish is bigger than the plate and still crackling with heat.

Unfortunately I got a small to medium piece of ordinary-looking fish in batter. Nothing mighty there.

I put it down to an over-enthusiastic description.

I should have mentioned it to the waitress but I didn’t.

Later when I spoke to Jack he told me to check my receipt – I found I had only been charged for a small cod.

He was very apologetic but I should have spoken up at the time.

The fish had crisp batter, was reasonably well cooked, and the chips were crunchy and excellent with skin on and appeared to be at least twice cooked along with some decent mushy peas.

Hannah had steak pie which was rich and meaty in a decent shortcrust pastry with a little pot of gravy, chips and peas.

For dessert we had treacle pudding and custard, chocolate fudge cake, warmed in the microwave and served with cream.

The cake was light, dark and chocolatey but not, according to Jack, home-made.

Neither was the treacle pudding- but that was lovely.

Lots of thick treacle, light sponge and sweet custard.

By this time Gromit was set for the afternoon but we were ready for more sticks and splashing.

It’s a dog’s life sometimes, even at the Crown Inn.

With two pints of beer and three courses each, including a sharing starter platter, our bill came to £41.10

Star rating out of five:

* Food 3

* Atmosphere 4

* Service 3

* Value 4

* The Crown Inn, Hillfoot Road, Totley, Sheffield S17 3AX, Tel: 0114 2360789

* Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, midday-11pm