With a rich history dating back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, The Crown Inn Hotel is situated in the picturesque Chiltern town of Old Amersham; a charming former coaching inn retaining many of its original features. Taking the helm at the hotel’s restaurant, Hawkyns is acclaimed two-star Michelin chef Atul Kochhar. My husband and I were here to spend the August bank holiday
A Brief History
Amersham as with many towns and villages of that time was an isolated farming community. However, around the 17th century with its trading routes and close proximity to London, it saw an influx of people travelling through the town hence an increase in coaches, so this former postal receiving house became a coaching inn offering food and drink and a place to lay weary heads. Conservative polititian and Member of Parliament for Amersham, Montague Garrard Drake of Shardeloes purchased the Crown in 1728 and it remained in the Drake family until 1928. A serious fire in 1802 damaged much of the front of the Crown. It was rebuilt using red brick, Georgian sash windows and Welsh slates for the roof. To the front entrance, a porch/portico supported by columns was erected. Unfortunately, this was so often damaged by the passing horse-drawn carriages and later vehicles. Sadly, in 1963 it was permanently removed after a major accident with a lorry saw its complete destruction. Amersham Council and the Rural Town Council both wanted it replaced but the Ministry of Housing ruled that the owners Trust Houses, wouldn’t be required to replace it. The Amersham and Georgian Society strongly supported its replacement however Trust Houses refused to oblige. This inevitably saw the main entrance replaced by a window and the entrance to the hotel was moved to the courtyard at the side where it is today.
The Crown Inn Today
Over the years and several fires later, The Crown has been preserved to retain its authenticity and olde-world charm where timber frames and exposed beams feature prominently throughout the main building. It has undergone several renovations and subtle changes over the years seamlessly blending old and new. One of these changes is the addition of a new building at the back of the hotel in the courtyard called The Gables which is where my husband and I were staying during our recent short break.
The new rooms are a mix of old and new. Contemporary with modern stylish additions yet keep that rustic feel.
Did you know that the hotel has been the scene of many films including My Cousin Rachel and Four Weddings and a Funeral which featured room 101, The Queen Elizabeth I Suite which saw the first romantic liaison between Carrie (Andie McDowell) and Charlie (Hugh Grant). If you’re a history geek like me, choose Room 12; it has the original painted wall which dates back to the 16th century and is also registered with the British Museum. The hotel has four different room types, 45 rooms in all over three separate buildings and a private room seating 40 perfect for weddings and parties.
A charming courtyard provides a tranquil place to have drinks and looks magical in the evening with its string of romantic fairy lights twinkling in the moonlight. A “secret garden” as my husband likes to call it is another secluded spot to enjoy lunch or drinks and has its very own herb garden.
There’s a welcoming bar and its own gin! Old Amersham Gin is made using home grown botanicals and is available to purchase next door at sister hotel The Kings Arms. Atul Kochhar’s Hawkyns Restaurant serves modern Indian cuisine.
We arrived at The Crown Inn early Sunday afternoon of the August bank holiday. While the global Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the UK and the rest of the world, staycations seem to be the norm and we felt we needed a break albeit a short one. Amersham is a town we know well as my husband owned a business here a few years ago. We were really looking forward dining at Hawkyns. Atul Kochhar is a chef we were both familiar with having eaten at his former establishment, Benares.
The hotel is everything I imagined it to be, warm and inviting and full of charm and history in comfy cosy surroundings. The reception area complies with government legislation shielding guests and reception staff with a glass screen. Sanitiser stations are everywhere throughout the hotel. We were shown to our Bailey Deluxe room which was located in the new Gable Annexe. Talented designer Isle Crawford MBE officiated the design of the rooms at the hotel. Some of her portfolio includes Babington House, Grand Hotel Stockholm and Soho House New York which was featured in Sex and the City.
Our room was a very good size with a separate stand-alone rain-fall shower, (rooms with a bath on request only) deep sink, tea/coffee making facilities, toiletries, soft bath towels, wireless internet access, huge TV, radio and complimentary red wine and water.
Breakfast is included in the room rate. The Bailey Deluxe is beautifully decorated in stylish contemporary colours and fabrics; subtle hues of grey and shades of taupe give the room a modern but rustic cosy feel. Luxurious Scottish Jacob blankets and chevron weave throws in super soft grey and cream wool fleece add the comforting finishing touches to this gorgeous room. If I had to criticise anything, I would say that the bathroom was missing bathrobes and an anti-slip bathmat.
After unpacking, we decided to explore more of the hotel and since the weather was mild, we had drinks in the courtyard which was quite busy on this sunny Sunday afternoon. I didn’t spot the herb garden which my husband duly called the “Secret Garden” but it is utterly charming with a pretty vine draped arch entrance and garden furniture. The vines even had some grapes growing which were remarkably sweet!
We headed back to our room to get ready for dinner at Hawkyns Restaurant which was undoubtedly the star of our stay. Atul Kochhar’s clever British Indian fusion food is an absolute delight. The restaurant was full which during this horrid Covid pandemic was so good to see. Tables are a good two metres apart and sanitisers are available on entering the restaurant. Staff at the hotel wear masks so there really is nothing to worry about.
After a restful sleep and the deafening shrill of the fire alarm being set off, we got ready for breakfast. The fire alarm was apparently set off by a steamy shower which was the talking point at breakfast. It really wasn’t that bad; a few guests made their way outside in their pyjamas, but we stayed put. Breakfast is a joyous affair, a choice of full English, mushrooms on toast with poached eggs and omelette with a choice of fillings. We both chose the poached egg and mushrooms on toast which was delicious and the perfect end to a wonderful stay.