|The Swan dishes up an ugly duckling|
Popular gastro-pub fails to totally live up to its reputation
It has been noted by a certain few that my husband and I don't appear to ever eat out together – at least not on the occasions I write about. Therefore to crush any rumours that a) I refuse to be seen in public with the lovely Irish man and b) he has no table manners, I decided to take him out for a mid-week treat.
The locally lauded gastro pub, The Swan, was his choice for our romantic supper unaware that it was also the choice of four other couples with whom we had attended the school's soiree with earlier that evening.
Faced with finding space for ten people without a moment’s notice, late on a busy balmy Wednesday evening would have flustered most waitresses – not so The Swan’s. We were all comfortably seated in the pub’s forecourt with the minimum of fuss and furniture reorganisation and began food and wine deliberations.
The Swan, tucked away in Evershed Walk off Acton Lane, is a just what most would want from their local. A relaxed friendly atmosphere, shabby wooden chairs and tables - ostensibly de rigueur for any self respecting gastro pub – and a delightful garden make The Swan an altogether agreeable place. Refurbished and reopened as a gastro pub a little over two years ago, The Swan has won numerous accolades from both locals and food critics alike. Squaremeal.co.uk has it listed as ‘one of the best gastro pubs in London’.
Back to the evening in question and with expectations high the men settled on drinking pints whereas the ladies chose a Pinot Grigio delle Venezie (£15.50) and a personal favourite Italian Firesteed Barbera (£15.50) to share.
It was almost 10.00pm by the time we placed our substantial food order at the bar - an order which comprised four Grilled Italian Sausages with Spiced Black Beans and Tomato and Chilli Jam (£9), two Pan Roast Salmon Fillets, Braised Puy Lentils with Choricero & Nora Peppers (£10.50), two Braised Lamb Chops with Tomato, Ginger, Cumin & Cayenne and Couscous with Toasted Almonds (£12.50), one Roast Loin of Pork with Fennel Seeds & Rosemary, Smashed Potato, Celery & Parsnips and Sweet Onion Chutney (£10.50) and one Pan Roast Duck Breast with Oregano & Red Wine, Sauteed New Potatoes and Field Mushrooms with Chilli & Garlic (£11.50).
Impressively our order was checked and verified not once but twice by the staff and was delivered all at the same time and piping hot. My choice was the pan roast duck breast which I am afraid to say was rather below par. I often choose duck when I eat out because it is the one meat I’m unable to cook myself but on this occasion The Swan’s duck was a disappointment. There was far too much fat and not enough meat. The oregano and red wine sauce and the sauteed new potatoes were tasty but not sufficiently so to avoid that irritating feeling that everyone else had made better choices. And most did. The sausages, the salmon and the lamb were all delicious and lived up to The Swan’s reputation for producing excellent food. The pork unfortunately was another disappointment. Again a rather fatty piece of meat but with a second-rate and very salty mixture of smashed potato, celery and parsnips made with far too much cream.
Due to the advancing hours, the thought of getting young children ready for school the following morning and that we had all had more than enough to drink, we decided to get the bill. The damage came to an exceptionally respectable £21 a head and included a generous tip. Considering that this amount covered ten main courses, seven bottles of wine and numerous pints (the exact number of which changed from man to man!) it resulted in an extremely enjoyable, modestly priced, impromptu group night out.
As for the two disappointing meals, I would be generous and put it down to the lateness of the hour and the size of our party. Next time - and I would give The Swan a second try - I’m going for the sausages!
July 21, 2005