We live in a very weird world, and that's not to mention anything to do with politics. Just this week I found myself defending the presentation of The Swan's pie on twitter to a "chef" who told me that the mash should have been quenilled [sic] with a little jus around the plate and some fresh watercress. I told him he was very wrong, and it's not the 90s anymore. Nobody puts watercress on top of food nowadays do they?
It's been a couple of years since I visited The Swan and lots has changed in that time. Most importantly it has been taken over by Sam and Georgie Pearman, the original founders of The Lucky Onion, with pubs like the brilliant Chequers at Churchill which they still own and the delightful Wheatsheaf at Northleach which they don't.
The pub has changed a bit too. Thinking back it was slightly disjointed but certainly not unpleasant. There was an odd little room if you entered the pub through the door on the road. That has gone has become an extension to the bar area with a few nice tables. The dining room which once had outlandish green walls, green wallpaper, and lots of flowers (the former owner was an interior and floral stylist) now boasts more subtle blues and looks more like a restaurant than someone's living room. There was a roaring fire in the other bar surrounded by the best seats in the house and a lovely room, perfect for celebrations and shoot parties leading out onto the courtyard garden which I imagine would be a nice spot in the summer. The pub has a warmer feel throughout.
It's very rare I order bread, or ever bother to talk about it when I do. However, the Chipping Norton sourdough came with horseradish and dripping butter which is very much worth shouting about.
I'm always torn between dishes and usually leave up to the waiter or waitress to decide for me. It was between the BBQ native prawns, English peas, Chipping Norton nduja and mussels. Without any hesitation, the prawns won. They were huge, messy (the water bowl and napkin both turned the colour your fingers go after eating a packet of Wotsits) and brilliant. I've never had peas with prawns before but it worked, and the nduja-fueled juice at the bottom of the copper bowl was incredibly good to for dipping the spelt toast in.
I wasn't torn for my main. It was 3 degrees outside and I wanted a pie. Chicken and leek or ox cheek and smoked bacon, and choosing the latter wasn't a difficult choice. It arrived standing wonderfully unpretentious on a bed of mash and gravy. It was a thing of beauty and yes Mr Angry Twitter Chef stuck in a different decade, there was no need for spooned mash or watercress. If anything, it could have done with an extra small jug of gravy as the mashed soaked it up like a sponge. The side of squash and cavolo nero, curly kale to you and me, was a decent addition.
This was some of the best pub food I have eaten in quite a while. I have a lot of time for places who have a one main menu fits all for lunch and dinner too.
The Swan will lure locals (there's a special menu in the bar with a £10 dish on every day ) and Londeners alike (there's a station in Ascott where one train a day stops from The Big Smoke). There are also 8 rooms at the pub for anyone wanting to make a couple of days of it which we would obviously highly recommend.
Food pictured is;
Ox Cheek and Smoked Bacon Pie
Crispy Cacklebean Egg
Triple ‘Ham’ Burger, Savoy Slaw, Toffee Apple Sauce, Blue Affine, Tabacco Onions, Alabama Fries