The Drury House is right in the heart of town at Number 4 Church Street. It is an old established family restaurant offering meals as close to homemade cooking as you will find in any Windsor eaterie. We popped in for lunch and were pleased to have done so. The chicken pie was a deliciously rich creamy concoction, well filled with good sized chicken pieces and topped with a properly golden pastry. It was accompanied with simply boiled vegetables and roast potatoes (the roasties were good, but not excellent) . A nicely sized pasta dish had masses of flavour and was cooked just the right side of al dente. For afters we went retro with a bread and butter pudding which arrived in a lake of old fashioned yellow custard. They were also serving a homemade strawberry tart which looked amazing, and the first mouthful elicited the one word review that all chefs long for… ‘wow’!
It wasn’t haute cuisine, but it was tasty, generous, warming, welcoming food at a fantastic price. Moreover the food was totally in keeping with the decor and atmosphere, much of the menu consisting of british cookery classics. The Drury house itself is a classic, built in 1645 – a perfect specimen of Stuart architecture. the main dining area contains an impressively ornate fireplace which dates back to that period. The mantlepiece features a carved motto “Dieu foi: ami foyer” which translates as ‘for god, faith and for friends, hospitality’. A most excellent motto for a house which is now a restaurant that really does provide excellent hospitality.
Although it is one of Windsor’s oldest eateries, Drury house has not always been a restaurant. During the 1920s it was the home of the Honorable Lady Curtis, but she was not the first aristocrat to live here. Charles Beauclerk, first earl of Burford may well have lived here with his mother Nell Gwynne. His father, King Charles II lived with the Queen in the castle, but local legend has it that naughty KingCharles used a secret tunnel to visit Nell, his mistress. In the sub-basement of Number 4 Church Street there is a clearly visible end of a bricked-up tunnel. Windsor is build on chalk and tunelling through to a point within the castle grounds would have been comparatively easy.
In the 1920s Lady Curtis believed that local legend was actually a little wrong. It was her family’s belief that King Charles housed a Catholic priest in the Drury House and it was he whom the king visited in secret. Lady Curtis even had a small statue of said priest on display by the stairwell. During the 17th century Anti-Catholicism was widespread and the king was in name a Protestant, although he did convert to Catholicism on his deathbed in 1685. Curiously enough his final words were in reference to Nell Gwynne, his mistress who was still living in Windsor, but by now had moved around the corder to the much grander residence of Burford House. King Charles is reputed to have said to his brother, (James I) ‘let not poor Nellie starve’.
Coming up from the basement the stairs are small and narrow, winding up through the subterranian levels and three floors above. In design this is a typical Stuart period town house retaining much of the layout of the original house and wood panelling appropriate to the late 1600s.
A quick walk around the back allows us to see the height of this building and the narrow windows, typical of the Stuart Period. Sadly, Lady Curtis’ small back garden that was formerly tended by the Crown Gardeners is now a car parking area.
Despite being so close to the town centre and in what seems a highly desireable location, the building was for much of its history used as a storeroom for the castle. The reason for this becomes clear when we realise that the road was formerly known as Fish Street where the fishmongers plied their smelly trade in the days before refridgeration. Also close by was the shambles where the butchers sold their wares. You can imagine that at such times the local properties might not have been seen as particularly desireable.
These days the shambles and fishmongers are gone, the streets are clean and Church Street is one of the most picturesque streets in Windsor. Where could be better for a classic feast than the Drury House at Number 4? Local residents will be delighted to hear that your Davantage Card will also get you a discount.