Wednesday, May 09, 2007

White Swan-ning around

Ever since I’d heard about the delights of the White Swan from another J, I wanted to check it out. I had the opportunity to entertain some clients based nearby for lunch so the White Swan was duly booked. On arrival I was rather pounced on by their maitre d’ Marceau who it transpires is somewhat a local legend. He furnishes me with a menu whilst I await my guests. On their arrival I thought it would be handy to have some more menus, or alternatively we could just pass the single one round the table. But instead of bringing the additional menus our (slightly eccentric) Marceau asks me to calm down in a really annoying Michael Winner “It’s only an advert” sort of way and adds rather erroneously “the other diners have menus”. I can only assume he feels we should avail ourselves of our fellow diners’ menus. All quite odd and an uncomfortable start to our meal! Eventually he relents, brings the menus and we start the important task of menu selection.

In fact the menu at the White Swan is a real challenge, there are so many options that I’d happily tuck into the choice was difficult. The Denham estate venison carpaccio, caramelised apples, watercress and parsnip cream sounds delicious or maybe the smoked duck breast with shallots, orange & rocket salad but I plump for the seared scallops with bacon blini, pea puree and truffle oil. I think the bacon blini intrigues me and clinches my decision. And to continue the rather curious front of house behaviour, I was asked if I realised that my seared scallops with bacon blini contained a bacon blini, which in turn contained bacon! This bizarre fact I had already gleaned from actually reading the menu and so I was slightly perplexed with this ‘bacon warning’. Do other diners not actually read the menu or have others been distressed with finding bacon in their bacon blini? The plot thickens! B and I both select the fine sounding be-baconed scallops whereas G can’t find anything she really likes and the new J is worried she’ll get too full – what admirable restraint! The scallops are fabulous but I have to admit maybe with all the build-up I can barely detect the bacon in the blinis.

Fortunately G is happy with the rib-eye and the hitherto untested béarnaise sauce for her main course, the new J with her wild sea-trout, B with her splendid looking lamb and I decide to go for the whole baby spring chicken, Alsace bacon, wild garlic leaf & wild morel jus. Everything is very tasty, though the wild garlic is maybe a tad subtle for my tastes. G is persuaded to try the béarnaise sauce for the first time ever and gingerly dips one of her fat chips into it. She pronounces it rather nice, rather akin to marzipan. I am quite surprised by this as I can only taste tarragon though apparently it’s quite common to confuse almonds and tarragon.

We share a rather luscious looking milk and white chocolate mousse with raspberry jelly. The raspberry jelly is a nice clean taste after the chicken and the sauces, and the chocolate mousse is very light. A fitting end to a lovely meal! For the finale, the waitress clearing our table tips over all the water and the remaining béarnaise sauce. Luckily it was water because it would have done some serious damage to our clothes if we’d been drinking red wine! Maybe that’s why they brought us chocolates with the bill.

I thought the food was very good but the service rather bizarre! Maybe it’s all part of the entertainment but I would say it was an acquired taste. Being told to calm down when I’m not remotely un-calm is a guaranteed way to increase my blood pressure, being made to feel uncomfortable by asking very gently for menus is really curious service. I would visit again but I would ensure none of my guests are those who’d be offended if similar behaviour occurred. Totally ignoring the service, I’d give two forks to the White Swan for their food.

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