REBEL Editorial || July 2016
THE FITZHERBERT, SWYNNERTON
It's a regular early evening question in our house on a Friday evening.
"What shall we do for dinner?"
There are, as always, three possible answers; cook in (rare), takeaway (less rare), eat out (not rare at all). On this Friday evening, eat out won out.
Our decision of where to eat was not so difficult. We had recently passed The Fitzherbert Arms and noticed there had been a definite change from the sad looking country pub I had seen many times before, to a rather dapper looking pub/restaurant.
The pub dates back to the early 19th century and its recent renovation has been completed by Lord Stafford and pub entrepreneurs Mary McLaughlin and Tim Bird. Its renovation was completed early in 2016 and the doors opened on February 16th.
On arrival we were greeted by an already almost full carpark – always a good sign. The restaurant itself is a large room with a central bar. The room is however divided by some original walls which help to provide an intimacy to the seating areas. We enquired at the bar about a table as we had not booked in advance – as it turns out bookings cannot be made anyway – and we were informed that tables were available and to choose one for ourselves. We actually liked the fact we could explore the restaurant before choosing our own table.
The owners have done an excellent job in keeping the village pub feel to a large restaurant space. The walls are adorned with period mirrors, a number of caricatures, and collections of farm implements. Our area had a selection of saws, which I hoped would not be needed to cut the meat – they weren't! In fact our glass top table had legs crafted from old sledge hammers.
Food and drinks are to be ordered at the bar although there are a number of young attentive staff who roam the restaurant to serve meals and help with menu questions.
The menu is very traditional with a few exceptions. Starters featured a Seafood Chowder, Local Asparagus, Courgette and Soft Boiled Egg Salad and a meat or fish sharing platter amongst the options. We had decided to forgo the starters to leave room for desert so immediately considered the main courses. As mentioned, tradition plays a large role on the menu – fish & chips, sausage and mash, Calves Liver etc.. But let's be clear, these are no ordinary traditional dishes. The Sausage and Mash is 'Free Range Buttercross Farm Pork and Red Onion Sausages served with Creamy Mash, Shallot Gravy and Braised Red Cabbage.
Ultimately my wife chose the 'Slow Cooked Belly Pork served with Spring Onion Mash, Cider Braised Lentils and Leeks', and I opted for 'Pan Roasted Rump of Lamb served with Rosemary Crushed New Potato Cake, Seasonal Greens and a Minted Lamb Jus'. The meals were served to us promptly. The pork belly was a large slab of meat, beautifully crisp in the outer fat side and for pork belly, not overly fatty. Perhaps the star of this this dish were the lentils that had taken in the cider wonderfully. My lamb was cooked pink – as had been explained to me on ordering - and was as tender as I would expected. I seemed to have acquired braised onions also and although the mint just seemed to be more of a redcurrant reduction, the whole plate worked together incredibly well.
Schoolboy error by the way – we forgot to take pictures - which is ridiculous because my wife usually takes pictures of everything to send to our daughters in the interest of making them jealous! (Editors note: from experience, so does 'husband')
Mains completed we were able to order our deserts at the table from a helpful server. Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownie for my wife (chocolate fan), and Swynnerton Mess for myself (not a chocolate fan). As you may have guessed the Swynnerton Mess is essentially an Eton Mess. Both deserts were superb an distinctly above average portion size wise.
It should be pointed out that this establishment is still as much a pub as it is a restaurant. Showcasing a number of Real Ales from the area, over 30 types of Port and a 'Nibble and Natter' small menu, a lunchtime pint and snack will be the reason for our next visit.