Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Restaurant Review: The Swan at Stoford, Wiltshire

My home town in Wiltshire is in beautiful countryside with some very good pubs. Growing up, my family never went to ‘proper’ restaurants – meals out were always in cosy pubs, often with a beer garden outside for my sister and I to play in. I doubt any of these places would describe themselves as ‘gastropubs’, as the food isn’t what you’d call high end and the beers are local rather than anything fancy – but that’s often exactly their charm. There’s nothing like a good Sunday roast or pub meal (scampi was my favourite as a child) shared with the family.
A couple of weeks ago I went down to Wiltshire to see my family on a Sunday as it was my birthday the following week, and we had lunch at the Swan Inn at Stoford. An 18th century inn, the website says it “offers the perfect riverside location amongst the rolling hills of Wiltshire, yet conveniently located on the A36”. Both parts of that statement are undoubtedly true – the location is picturesque, but the car park is on the opposite side of the road to the pub and you have to dart across the A36 to get in!
The Swan has all the things that make a Wiltshire country pub to me – an open fire, a garden, and a skittle alley. It’s on the river Wylye – as my late grandmother’s house was – and has fishing rights if you’re into fly fishing. It is also a B&B with 13 rooms though I haven’t seen inside any of them.
The lunch menu is extensive with light options, starters, sharing platters, salads, and a section of ‘classic mains’ versus ‘special mains’. Fish and chips, beef and ale pie, chicken korma and Stoford Chicken – chicken breast with bacon, BBQ sauce and Cheddar cheese – all count as classic mains, while special mains are more expensive, ranging from fish pie (not sure why that isn’t a classic), lamb shoulder, pork belly, grilled sea bream and so on. Separate to that is the grill section, with a choice of steaks, lamb or chicken and various sauces and sides, and there is a whole burger section with six types of burger and toppings.
There were six vegetarian mains on the menu, though as one is a cheese Ploughman’s I think perhaps that should have been under the separate Ploughman’s section which lists the meat options. My sister’s boyfriend ordered the Ploughman’s and there was some confusion from the waiter as to whether he wanted the vegetarian one, or one with meat (which was described on the menu as coming with both cold meats and cheese) and he ended up with only meat and no cheese.
I had the Sunday roast which was served from a carvery – my first carvery and I made a schoolgirl error! You go up to the station where someone is carving meat, and help yourself to the side dishes. I was asked if I wanted beef, lamb or pork and when I said I couldn’t decide was offered a combination; the lamb was a bit fatty but otherwise the meat was really good. I love roast potatoes and planned to pile my plate high, but took a giant Yorkshire pudding first, which took up most of the space on my plate. When I sat down I saw several other people with the roast dinner, all of whom had a pile of meat, potatoes and vegetables – with the Yorkshire pudding balanced on top like the cherry on a cake. That’s obviously the trick to maximising space, I will know for next time!
One of the side dishes was cauliflower cheese which I don’t often get with pub roasts, so it was a very welcome addition, though if I have one thing to say to the Swan it’s that their gravy is too thin! The waiter had also promised to let me know a couple of minutes before everyone else’s food was served that I should go up to the carvery so we could eat at the same, but obviously forgot, so I ended up queuing for my food while everyone else was tucking in to theirs. Other than that it was a really good meal and somewhere I think we will probably come back.


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