During a temporary 2 week closure in 2015, The Swan at Hanley Swan had undergone a substantial make over, costing landlord Barney Reynolds in partnership with Punch Taverns (owners of the premises) in excess of £250,000. The newly decorated 17th century Inn also saw an installation of a real log fire and a conservatory which overlooks a duck pond and outside terrace area. Perfect for sitting and watching the ducks and geese pottering around on the village green.
According to Wikipedia Hanley Swan was an inspiration for the setting in the novel ‘Black Swan Green by David Mitchell’. The charming and picturesque village is situated just 2 miles from the idyllic Malvern hills and tourist hot spot, Upton-Upon-Severn in the glorious Worcestershire countryside.
The Swan Inn offers 5 individually styled and affordable en-suite guest rooms, which includes breakfast in the price. As well as being hugely popular with the locals, word is starting to spread further afield resulting in the popular gastro-pub to be voted ‘the best pub in Worcestershire’ by The National Pub and Bar Awards 2017, a title which is proudly displayed at the top of The Swan’s website homepage.
Despite only being 8 miles away from home and having driven past the Swan Inn many times, I’d never actually stopped by until now. Recommended to me again and again by colleagues, friends and Twitter pals, it was time we paid them a visit. It was Friday lunchtime when I called to book a table for the same evening. Aware that they were likely to be busy I wasn’t sure we’d get in. As I had work the next day we wanted to eat early so booked for 6:30. Probably the reason why they were able to accommodate us.
There was parking available outside the pub and we secured our spot. The front door opened into the bar area which was full of people sitting at tables and on stools, we also felt a warm welcome by the dog staring up at us from the floor. One of the bar staff acknowledged us and arranged for someone to take us to our table, which happened to be next to the window in the oak-framed conservatory. There were children playing outside in the garden / terrace area and whilst inside the restaurant was quickly filling up. This didn’t seem to daunt the waiting staff who were keeping up with the demands of the busy restaurant.
The seasonal spring menu sounded interesting, with the prices of main courses ranging from £14.50 to £19 and steaks from £15.50 to a 7oZ fillet at £27. The Swan have been open for breakfast to the public since 25th March, 8am-11am on Saturdays and Sundays. They also have a 1, 2 or 3 course Sunday menu available as well as a lighter lunch menu offering a selection of sandwiches, baguettes and wraps. Local suppliers are used for butchery, fish, vegetables, bakery and ice cream and named on the menu.
I managed to dwindle my choices down to 3 options, but couldn’t decide on a main course. Luckily Mr R picked one of my starter options, the Brixham crab and crayfish tail terrine, so I went for the duo of cured salmon. I asked our waiter which he would choose between the belly of pork and the smoked haddock and mussel kedgeree, the decision needed to be taken out of my hands. He said they were both brilliant, but he was particularly fond of the kedgeree so I took his recommendation. Whilst we waited for our food order another waitress brought some hand-cooked potato chips and homemade salsa for us to snack on – a far more favourable option for us than bread.
The starters were presented on dark grey plates and the spring colours in contrast looked stunning. If you’re wondering if the food tasted as good as it looks from my photos, I assure you it did! The thick slices of gravadlax and gin and beetroot salmon with caviar, pickled cucumber and horseradish crème fraiche was luxurious and delightful. Although the real star of the salmon starter was the refreshing and palette cleansing lime sorbet. The colours, textures and fish combo of the crab terrine worked exceptionally well together, and as much as I loved the salmon, my favourite of the 2 dishes had to be the Brixham crab.
Although I’m not much of a lamb eater (it has to be out of this world and very lean for me to enjoy it) Mr R allowed me to sample a mouthful of his Cotswold lamb. The meat was cooked beautifully and served with an impressive stack of dauphinoise, celeriac puree, curly kale and red wine jus. I couldn’t resist a second mouthful.
In March I’d made a tasty Smoked Haddock Kedgeree at home, using a Rick Stein Recipe I found online and absolutely loved. When I saw that kedgeree was on the menu this evening, I was intrigued as to how the chef might transform this great British breakfast favourite into an impressive gastro-pub main course. Inside a pretty turquoise ceramic bowl was a pyramid tower of broad bean, garden pea and asparagus sticky rice. It was surrounded by a thick creamy curry sauce with smoked haddock and mussels, hard boiled eggs and a pea shoot garnish – this was how. The curry was fragrant, full of flavour, creaminess and was incredibly moreish. The portion was huge and although I couldn’t quite finish the whole bowl, Mr R kindly helped me out. Now to sweet talk the chef for the recipe!
We’re somewhat predictable when it comes to the dessert course. Neither of us particularly have a sweet tooth, except for when there’s a chocolate fondant on offer. If it’s on the menu we’ll take one, and it was so we did. We also opted for a cheese board, well it would have been rude not to. 2 hours on and the restaurant was even busier by now. Our waitress still attentive, took our order, thoughtfully asking if we’d like to share the pudding first before bringing out the cheese.
The meticulous standard of the meal continued right through to the last course. The homemade chocolate pud was neither under or overcooked, what a relief. As I opened it up with my fork, the thick, gooey, warm chocolate oozed out on to the plate. The Churchfields cherry sorbet deserves a special mention. We loved it so much we could have eaten a bucket of it. Thankfully they’re only based in Droitwich, so we’ll be dropping buy to stock up the freezer.
The cheese board included a generous chunk of black bomber cheddar, driftwood goat’s cheese, Shropshire blue and stinking bishop. A nice display of well-known but quality cheeses. We opted for an extra cheddar in place of the goats cheese. Also on the board was a selection of ‘artisan wafers’, some huge red grapes as well as 2 different types of chutney and a red onion marmalade. We really liked the presentation of the board, which included a ‘proper’ cheese knife each too.
In hindsight we were lucky to get a table at such short notice as with the parking space right outside on a busy Friday evening. I’d strongly recommend booking in advance, especially on a weekend. If you’ve been to The Swan Inn, Hanley Swan I’d love to hear what you thought. Please click on ‘leave a comment’ on the left of this page to let me know.
Cost: £69 (food only)
2 Starters, 2 main course, 2 desserts
Hanley Swan, Worcestershire, United Kingdom – last visited in May 2017
Food hygiene rating – 3/5 generally satisfactory – date of last inspection 11th January 2017