The Swan at Swinbrook
For the historians amongst you, you may recognise the Oxfordshire village name Swinbrook with its connection to the famous Mitford sisters. For the non-historians let me tell you a little bit about this Oxfordshire village.
Situated on the outskirts of the Cotswolds, Swinbrook is one of those idyllic English villages with quaint stone houses and a cricket ground so quintessentially charming you could still be in the 1920’s.
Swinbrook is also home to The Swan, a traditional Inn owned by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire; the last surviving Mitford sister.
As you first walk into The Swan you’re greeted with an oldie-worldie country charm. The stone floor and open brick walls make for an authentic feel. It’s only when you walk towards the back of the pub that you are welcomed with a more modern feel. The conservatory extension provides an open and airy space great for group parties.
We first visited The Swan back in August last year when we moved back to Oxfordshire as a spontaneous summer’s evening treat. Unfortunately, thanks to a hectic diary and other local eateries to try out, we hadn’t made it back. However, a family birthday last weekend gave us the perfect excuse to head back.
Spookily our party was seated in the exact same place as our last visit, right next to the door over-looking the garden. We went straight to main meals with roast dinners all round; two beef, one pork and one chicken, all bar the chicken served with seasonal vegetables and roast potatoes. The chicken instead came fashionably served on a chopping board with fries and a salad.
Portions were generous and hearty and packed full of flavours. I had the pork which came with a rich, autumnal gravy tinged with herbs, alongside an apple sauce which I hope came from the apples in the garden. The beef was adorned with a whopping great Yorkshire pud that could light up the eyes of even the coldest heart. The home-made horseradish sauce provided a great finishing touch to the dish – a hint of spice without overpowering the rest of the flavours. The chicken was moist and tender and alongside the salad proved to be a light alternative to the heavier pork and beef dishes.
All four of us were tempted by the dessert menu and opted for the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream, Eton mess and a honey, saffron and blackberry panna cotta. Despite choosing what could have been a heavy dessert after a rich main meal, the sticky toffee pudding was light and fluffy and a welcomed way to end a meal. The Eton mess, served in a tall glass was fruity and crunchy and the perfect way to say goodbye to the summer months. The panna cotta enjoyed by the men of the group, although not free to wobble, worked well with a tasty nutty layer on top and a nice subtle honey flavour in the set cream below.
The service although friendly, took a bit of effort to ‘break-the-ice’. It certainly didn’t taint the meal in any way, but service with a smile throughout the entire meal can give that extra wow factor.
Despite not having been for a year, The Swan at Swinbrook still remains a favourite local restaurant. Even if history isn’t your thing, pay it a visit just for the local produce that will have your taste buds tingling.
Find out more about The Swan, visit their website at www.theswanswinbrook.co.uk