Dining Out: The White Swan, Shawell, Leicestershire
I first visited The White Swan as a lunchtime birthday treat earlier this year so I was looking forward to enjoying an evening meal, at what is considered by many, to be one of the best gastro- pub restaurants in the locality. I have eaten at most of the local restaurants and public houses within ten miles of my home town of Daventry and The White Swan had impressed me with the quality of its food and value for money on my first visit.
You could be excused for not knowing which county you were in, as the small village of Shawell is located very close to the borders of Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire and is less than a mile from junction 19 which links the M6, M1 and the A14. Shawell is in fact part of Leicestershire, close to the old Roman site of Tripontium west of the village on the A5. The village also includes the earthwork remains of a motte and bailey castle and the 15 century tower of All Saints Church, south of the village
The White Swan is managed by Rugby born Chef/Patron Rory McClean and his American partner Samantha Laye. Rory worked and trained in Michelin star restaurants under Angela Harnett at the Connaught and Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, London before joining up with Restaurant Manager Ben Coleman at The White Swan.
Former Head Chef Ben brings a huge amount of experience from working across the world in Italy, Hong Kong, China and Japan sharing a similar vision to Rory in wanting to provide a fine dining experience and to cook exceptional food in their hometown locality. New Head Chef Chris Leaper has been working in professional kitchens since the age of thirteen, gaining experience at The Westbury in London and was Head Chef at The Grey Goose at Gilmorton before joining the team at The White Swan.
The White Swan has undergone a major makeover in recent years but it still retains the atmosphere of a traditional country pub but with a restaurant that produces top class food.
On entering the pub, there is a small smart bar area on the left and a cosy comfortable seating area to your right. Outdoor seating space is provided in a small courtyard at the rear and on a raised area at the front of the pub with plenty of car parking up a narrow drive to the side of the building. Children are always welcome and you can bring your dog along too if you wish.
We were greeted at the door and asked whether we would like to have a drink in the bar or be shown to our table. We decided to order a couple of drinks from the bar and sit in the warm & comfy `snug` area. My wife had volunteered to drive that evening so I was able to sample the local beer.
The White Swan is a freehold pub which has enabled Rory to use a range of independent local brewers. A varied selection of draught, bottled beers and regular guest beers are always available. Russell Webb`s Dow Bridge Micro- Brewery is in the village of Catthorpe just a mile away from Shawell so I chose a pint of their Gladiator (4.5% ABV) which was a strong dark full bodied ale with roasted malt giving off hints of chocolate. A wonderful pint of ale to start the evening.
It was a Friday evening so there were many customers in the bar area and most dining tables were fully occupied creating a vibrant atmosphere. The dining area was very bright and clean partly due to the huge skylight which is a real feature of the room. Freshly decorated and refurbished with recently varnished parquet flooring, it was a delightful and comfortable dining area.
We opted for the six -course Tasting Menu at £49 per person including an Amuse Bouche, a starter, fish course with a choice of main meal and dessert followed by Petit Fours and coffee.
We chose not to drink the selected paired wines for each of the tasting dishes but chose a good French wine to drink alongside our meal. We selected a French Fleurie, La Madone 2013, Beaujolais. The wine was served at a perfect temperature and humidity thanks to the stunning glass wine cooler doubling up as a wall partition. It was served in two stunning tall wine glasses which my wife adored. The wine was a vibrant collection of plump, fleshy cherry flavours with hints of rose. Just perfect!
All the dishes were beautifully presented and arrived at the table in good time.
Amuse bouche – We started our meal with a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre: a very tasty ball of Duck served with three types of butter, Burnt, beef and salted. We were also presented with a small plate of bread: Sun- Dried Tomato and Irish Soda. It certainly got my taste buds beating!
Starter: Our starter was a couple of strips of Smoked wood pigeon alongside a good portion of pearl barley & sloe gin jelly. The meal was presented at the table with a domed lid, taken off the plate to reveal a profusion of steam smoked BBQ aromas filling the air. We thought the slightly pinker meat of the wood pigeon was much tastier than the slightly longer cooked drier section of the meat. The Sloe Gin jelly was surprisingly quite strong but alongside the pearl barley, which you don’t often see on a menu these days, it made the perfect accompaniment to the earthy, woodland taste of the wood pigeon.
Fish course: Cured Mackerel, cucumber, horseradish & Irish soda bread. The chef had changed the menu so instead of Salmon rillettes we were served sweet Smoked mackerel with sliced carrot, cucumber and radish. The combination of flavours complemented each other perfectly and made for a wonderful dish.
My wife chose the Venison loin & faggot, roasted cauliflower, pear & Yorkshire blue.
This was a fantastic piece of lean dark meat of venison. The flavour of the meat was musky, when compared with beef. The small pieces of cauliflower were slightly seared and tasted beautiful. The soft blue Yorkshire cheese sat nicely with the warm slim slices of fresh pear.
I opted for the Braised halibut & clams, confit potato & crispy seaweed. The seven tiny clams were spread sparingly over the halibut which sat on a generous portion of square confit potatoes sprinkled with thinly sliced radish. The crispy seaweed was a delicate flavour but the crispness gave a lovely variety to the textures. The Halibut was a good-sized portion and was flavoured beautifully with the clam sauce.
We decided against the optional cheese course (£5 supplement) which was a selection of specialty cheeses with homemade bread, chutney & crackers, purely because we didn’t think we could eat them!
My wife could not resist the Dark chocolate fondant, Baileys ice cream & espresso. The chocolate was exceptional and the Baileys ice cream combined well with the slightly bitter taste of the espresso.
I chose the Pistachio cake, mulled fruits, créme fraiche ice cream. The Pistachio cake slice dominated this dish sprinkled liberally with an assortment of mulled fruits. The scoop of créme fraiche ice cream at the side went down perfectly with a piece of the Pistachio cake on the fork.
A couple of home – made petit fours apiece – Coffee & Walnut Cake and Chocolate Truffle along with a warm cup of cappuccino completed a perfect meal and evening dining out.
If you are looking for a restaurant for that special occasion or looking for somewhere different to celebrate Christmas or the New Year, you should try The Swan at Shawell.
The White Swan remains a traditional country pub for locals and visitors but its restaurant also produces top class food in a warm and welcoming environment. With traditional log burning fires and cosy snug area it still retains much of its original character and charm. I would highly recommend a visit in the very near future.
The White Swan, Shawell, Leicestershire:
Value for money: Excellent
Food: Exceptional – beautifully presented and a treat for all the senses.
Service: The waiting staff were attentive, helpful and smart but not obtrusive.
Parking: Plenty of parking up a narrow drive to the right of the pub
Total Cost: £49 person for Six Course Tasting Menu
Wine: Fleurie, La Madone 2013, Beaujolais, France. Glass: £7.75 Bottle: £29.00
The White Swan, Main Street, Shawell, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, LE17 6AG
Tel: 01788 860357
Facebook: White Swan Shawell
Best Pub Refurbishment 2014 CAMRA AWARD WINNER
Champagne Breakfast: With or without a glass of champagne or Bucks Fizz £15.50/£12.50
Wednesday: Wine & Dine Menu changing weekly – 3 courses with matching wines for under £30 served from 6pm
Festive Christmas Menu: Festive Christmas Menu, Christmas Eve Tasting Menu, Christmas Day menu and Christmas Day Vegetarian menu.
Gift Vouchers: available
Full à la carte Menu, children`s menu and Bar menu all available. See Website for details.
Nominated: UK Blog Awards 2017
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