Chloe Weston finds her perfect Inn and forgets to leave enough room for the pudding.
The Swan, nestled in the picturesque Cotswold village of Southrop (between Lechlade and Burford), is well-known to food lovers. Over the years it has featured in eating guides on a regular basis, but this Autumn the 17th century inn has been taken over by a new and very dynamic duo - Sebastian and Lana Snow - and is already making headlines that makes its history pale into mediocrity.
The new management team took over on September 1st and, since opening their doors on that day after a period of refurbishment, have been spectacularly busy. Sebastian and Lana have a track record of success, having owned and run four restaurants in London which were all highly acclaimed by the food critics. Their decision to move out of London with their young family and ply their trade in Gloucestershire is a cause for celebration amongst those of us who love to eat great food in convivial surroundings.
The Swan is everything that a perfect Inn should be. Built in Cotswold stone, it very much looks the part and would be very hard to drive past without stepping inside. Once over the threshold it is has endless nooks and crannies in which to get comfy, a cosy restaurant area with a huge fireplace, fresh flowers and modern art juxtaposed with a mis-match of ageing tables and chairs, a modern bar area (serving bar food) and even a skittle alley. None of this would count for much, however, if the food on offer was average. Fear not, the menu is wonderful and the cooking sublime.
My companion and I popped into The Swan for lunch shortly after it had re-opened. Despite getting there relatively early, I was struck by how the place was already buzzing with a mixture of locals and those who had clearly travelled some distance to be there. The menu changes on a regular basis, not least because Sebastian sources his ingredients locally, such as Southrop lamb, Hatherop partridge and Kelmscott pork and uses what is available and in season. We happily munched on bruschetta with a topping of fresh tomato, garlic and fragrant basil, while waiting for our main course. We opted out of a starter as it was lunchtime but I must say I could have eaten everything on the list. It all sounded wonderful.
I thoroughly enjoyed my calf's liver and bacon bubble and squeak which arrived with beetroot relish, sage butter and the day's vegetables. Everything was perfectly cooked and the flavours were sublime. My companion had a wild mushroom risotto which was also gorgeous - not stodgy, and with a generous scattering of the mushrooms embedded in the soft savoury rice. We could not resist the dessert menu even though we were satiated, and chose the raspberry bread and butter pudding with custard and sticky toffee and date pudding with clotted cream. This was after agonising over the black and white, fruit and nut chocolate brownie with Horlicks ice-cream and apple and hob nut crumble with blackberry ice-cream. We need not have worried though, our puddings were fabulous and I have made a mental note to return to The Swan very soon and leave more room next time to try the other puddings on offer.
Lana runs a very tight front of house operation and the service and attention to detail is second to none. Combined with the excellence from the kitchen, and the extensive wine list, we were left with a very favourable impression of The Swan and I cannot recommend it more highly.
The Swan is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday and for lunch on Sunday. Booking is essential, but do plan a visit. You will not be disappointed.
The Swan, Southrop, Gloucestershire, GL7 3NU
Telephone: 01367 850205