the Swan Inn
2 Hare Lane
Surrey KT10 9BS
Tel. 01372 462582
Food type: British Gastropub
Nearest train: Claygate
Website: the Swan Inn
I so happened to be in the Esher area and remembered that Claude Bosi of 2* Hibiscus fame had recently opened a new gastropub around the area. Bosi is of course not new to the gastropub business, having previously been involved in a couple of them with his brother, Cedric. His previous ventures, the Fox & Grapes (Wimbledon), the Malt House (Fulham) and the Bell (Yarpole, Hertfordshire) enjoyed some degree of success before being sold off.
Unlike Bosi’s previous ventures, the Swan Inn is rooted firmly in classic British dishes although his manager Joseph informs me that once the kitchen has settled in, they will put one or two of Bosi’s unique (read: quirkier) dishes on the menu. For now however, the menu spins off all your usual pub classics – pies, hamburgers, steak & chips, sticky toffee pudding and roasts on Sunday. The prices too are very fair – cheaper than say Heston’s the Crown in Bray or Chapman’s Beehive in White Waltham. Mind you, I visited within two weeks of the restaurant being open and the prices may reflect the soft opening period.
The menu read like a dream and I could have easily ordered all the items on it. However I settled with 4 courses, opting for an extra starter. To begin, I had to try the Lyonnaise salad. After all, Bosi hails from Lyon and I wanted to see his take on this French classic. I am not a big fan of salads per se, but I really enjoy a Lyonnaise salad for the simple fact that it is 99% unhealthy. Here, half a head of lettuce is presented on the plate, stuffed with strips of bacon, crushed croutons and a wholegrain mustard dressing. On the side, a delicate poached egg. This may not be the most classic interpretation of the dish, but all the components of the dish were on the plate and it was lovely to tuck in and discover a good helping of bacon hiding between the leaves. Also despite the presentation, the salad leaves were evenly dressed from within.
I also tried a classic Prawn cocktail as this probably one of my favourite things to eat when I get home from the gym. To be more exact, I love Heston’s version with the addition of vanilla seeds and celery powder which gives it a unique kick. Served in a cocktail glass, Bosi’s version had juicy plump prawns dressed with a classic Marie Rose sauce with diced avocado and cucumber hiding at the bottom. The Marie Rose sauce was fine, but I felt it just needed a little something extra – perhaps a few extra dashes of Tabasco sauce to give it that extra ‘oomph’. The soda bread served with Ludlow butter on the side were divine with great texture and maltiness to it. I could have easily eaten a whole basket of it.
For mains I tried the Welsh lamb rump served with what the menu describes as a ‘jardiniere of spring vegetables’. This was a very smart take on the classic lamb navarin (a French lamb stew). However instead of the vegetables being cooked into a complete mush, the medley of vegetables had a little bite and texture to them. The cuisson of the lamb rump itself was bang on perfect – lovely charred and crispy exterior but the meat itself was pink, soft and tender. What made the dish however was the addition of the Moroccan mint pesto which when mixed with the jus created a lovely mint infused sauce lifting the whole dish. I would happily return and eat this dish all over again.
Finally, to finish, it had to be their treacle tart with a huge dollop of clotted cream. This is another British classic which is often done really badly be it bad pastry or sickeningly sweet treacle filling. Here there is no twist on the classic but the execution was perfect – warm, thin, crumbly pastry with filling that had just the right amount of sweetness, tempered by the clotted cream.
I really enjoyed my meal at Swan Inn. The prices here are very reasonable and the pub also has a lovely outdoor seating area which will be great during the summer months. At the end of the meal, I had a short chat with their manager Joseph who informs me that the restaurant had been completely packed for dinner every single day since they have been open. Admittedly they have only been open for two weeks but this is a good sign that the locals are coming out in droves to support the restaurant. Even during these early days, the cooking here is accomplished and it will be interesting to see how they continue to develop once the staff have bedded in nicely into their new kitchen. For me, I as I have plenty of reason to be around this area, I am sure I will be visiting them on a fairly regular basis.