New Michelin starred pub for 2019 Guide
The White Swan is one of only two pubs to receive a Michelin star in the 2019 guide (the other one being The Blackbird in Bagnor). This is a lovely looking pub in an unlikely setting, where during the meal I happen to catch overtones of food being the subject of many tables in discussion outside of eating – perhaps this is an unknown village of devout food lovers irrespective(!). Either way, I’m very pleased for this venue gaining a star as the dishes were simple, well executed and packed a powerful punch of flavour. Tom Parker (head chef), mentored by Nigel Haworth of Michelin starred Northcote, has also managed to offer a value set menu to be enjoyed in the evening (3 courses for £35) as well which is rare for finer dining establishments (one other that leaps in to the mind for this is Le Champignon Sauvage). This, combined with some very decent beers and the well-designed interior make this a little gem of the north, perhaps the country. Thoroughly recommended if you are passing anywhere near.
As it was a bit of a trek to get to Fence from London, I opted for the tasting menu at £60 for 6 courses on my way further northwards. Homemade white bread using organic white flour and another different kind (secret) was served first. This had been part baked and then frozen which allows them to put in the oven every time and served with chicken liver parfait with grated frozen foie gras and salted butter. This was a lovely touch and amuse bouche effectively, the parfait being deep in flavour, glossy and smooth with a gorgeously warm, crunchy bread. I had a smile on my face start to finish with this as the welcome and made everything about the long journey disappear. It was so good in fact that I asked for another piece of bread and this was duly done and baked, bespoke to request – it’s been a long time since even a 3 Michelin starred restaurant did this for me. It was another £1 for this bread which I would frankly pay in a heartbeat for doing to order and with this level of crunch to the crust.
First up was organic salmon, which I was informed was farmed, so I was curious how this could be, but was served with English wasabi buttermilk, cucumber & dill, yuzu. The sous vide and slow-cooked salmon was melt in the mouth as you would expect albeit without much inherent flavour – the flavour was added by everything else on the plate which came together nicely.
Tomato consommé was next with garden herbs, flowers, sweet and sour tomatoes, olives and served with Hebdon Bridge goats cheese gnocchi. This had a really powerful tomato flavour, with olives providing a very good compliment with the sweet and sour consommé. The consommé itself was at the very limit of what I would call comfortable for sweetness (anymore sweet and I would need a protective coating for my teeth) and the gnocchi was very nicely cooked. There was strong seasoning from the goats cheese and was pleasurable nonetheless.
West coast turbot (from a good sized, 7kg fish) came with dashi buerre blanc, asparagus bits, roast chicken and shitake and mushroom ketchup. This was fantastic, every component. The turbot was sensational in quality, cooked to perfection with glorious chicken skin pieces being the ideal crunch and seasoning on top. Sweet and umami came together at the same time here with the mushroom ketchup and was a beautifully done dish.
Burholme farm lonk lamb (with braised lamb), jacket skin and onion mash, chives, sheep’s curds and potato cracking side formed the meat course. This brought the meal down to a pleasant simmer I thought; the lamb was well cooked but was medium strength in terms of lamb super flavour, however, this was boosted by the side of jus which had a very pleasant rosemary kick.
Hot and cold coffee caramel formed an unusual but original pre-dessert – warmth from the caramel mousse surrounded by nitro-poached caramel releasing good textures and mixing well. Perhaps the heavy sweetness could be toned down a fraction as a pre-dessert here. A Valrhona chocolate soufflé with salted peanut butter ice cream and hot chocolate sauce ended the meal on another true high as the souffle was perfect in the middle, the chocolate not being too heavy and a well-judged level of peanut and sugar in the ice cream to assist the souffle.
Even though I nip pick, I so enjoyed this meal, served in a completely non-stuffy or pretentious atmosphere. It’s a true delight when these things happen and you walk away with a satisfied glow. The head chef even afforded a few minutes to chat when he was in the middle of service which I felt a little guilty about, but was good to discover he is simply doing his own thing, as the main driver, with just two other chefs to help in the small kitchen. Beer lovers should be very pleased with the selection of Timothy Taylor’s ales to choose from behind an attractive looking bar.
This is another lovely addition to the Michelin starred family and well done to them.
Food Grade: 81%
Location (Click google logo for directions)