Down at the Crown with Adriano Elam
The village pub. The best not only serve up delicious food and provide a convivial, sociable space at the heart of their communities, but often provide something extra. Take The Crown at Arford, run by chef/proprietor Adriano Elam. This country inn has contributed to our musical legacy, inspiring the track 'Down at The Crown', written by guitarist Danny Kirwan of Fleetwood Mac during the group's earlier years when they'd taken up residence at a country house just round the corner from The Crown.
Not many pubs feature in Fleetwood Mac tracks. Neither are many country pubs headed up by a Chef/Proprietor who has worked everywhere (that's a Fleetwood Mac allusion if you hadn't noticed). His impressive CV includes notable stints at The Ritz, The Savoy and The Grosvenor House Hotel, as well as work worldwide - from Bermuda to Thailand. He has worked at Wolfgang Puck's Postrio in San Francisco, been Executive Chef for Holiday Inn and CCA International at the Bankers Club, both in Kuala Lumpur, plus top restaurants in Singapore and Taiwan.
However,he has settled down at The Crown. In part it was this listed country pub’s character and its local community that attracted globe-trotting Adriano. At the time, having returned to the UK, Adriano was working for a boutique independent leading food contract caterer. However, when he visited The Crown and discovered it was going to be vacated, he was instantly hooked. Adriano recalls: “We loved the place! We were interested!”
The attraction wasn’t only the Fleetwood Mac connection. It was the village location, the opportunity to be part of the community, and the creative freedom to make the place his own. After extensive renovation work they opened July 2019. Adriano’s ambition was to cook great food using great local produce, accompanied by a great wine list with great service. Job done.
To get some idea of the breadth of Adriano's skill, creativity and repertoire he mentions just a few of his signature dishes: Crab & Lobster Raviolo with Samphire & Mussel Sauce; Canon of Lamb with Oriental Vegetable Stir-fry, Roasted Garlic Sauce and Rosemary Infused Fondant Potatoes; Manchurian Cauliflower; Fig & Almond Tart.
Adriano explains: “Being born into a Northern Italian family, I have a great love for Italian food, and having worked in numerous countries and travelled widely, I have come across different ingredients and learnt a great variety of cooking styles. However, I believe the basics I learnt in my younger years have been key. Classics and traditional techniques are so important, all aspiring chefs should gain a sound foundation.”
His dishes also make great use of local suppliers: “What do I like about the Hampshire food and drink scene? I like the variety. There are some great products out there. We use Owtons for our meat; the quality of meat and game in the county is excellent. We always take advantage of Blackmoor cherries when they are in season, and foraged produce from mushrooms to wild garlic. In addition, the local cheeses are great, as well as the local distilleries like Gorilla Spirits and their amazing Spiced Rum."
Just eight months after opening, however, Adriano was facing lockdown.
“From the first day, after the first lockdown In March, we started to offer a takeaway menu which we have continued throughout. It is a simpler menu including fish and chips on Friday and roasts on Sunday. Subsequently we have also bought a pizza oven, adding homemade stone baked sourdough pizzas to our offer.
“In the lead up to Christmas we introduced a retail area, featuring some homemade products and speciality fine foods. We have also started producing our own cured salmon and smoked fish. Post lockdown we will continue with the deli and takeaway offer. Plans are in place to add features and seating to the garden, and the Sourdough Pizza offer will probably relocate there."
Adriano remains positive: “Even now after many, many years in the profession, I still learn something new on a daily basis. It's a great business to be in, it's a way of life.”
Adriano Elam is one of the Chefs on the Panel at the Local Produce Trade Show, to be held in September at The Ageas Bowl. Find out more HERE.