Monday, September 1, 2014
Before I begin this post, let me first start off by saying that I think Sebastian and Lana Snow are absolute super stars. I was one of their biggest fans when they had The Swan at Southrop. My wife and I visited them many times and brought nearly all of our family and friends there. It was our little Cotswold secret and we felt very special knowing about it. It was, quite simply, a perfect pub in every way.
A couple of years ago I received an email from Sebastian and Lana (a mass email. I am not personal friends with them) telling me that they sold The Swan and were moving on to The Five Alls in Filkins. My wife and I were one of the first people through the doors and it was clear from the start that this was not the same pub. It had a much more commercial, clean, new and fresh feel to it. Which, I am not really a fan of. I loved the old world, small, slightly dated feel of The Swan. But I reserved judgement until the food arrived. After all, the food is really why I dine out.
I was initially quite happy with everything, although my burger was a very sad piece of cooking, indeed. A bun that was far larger than the patty and made of, God forbid, a white, seeded bun, instead of brioche as all proper burgers are made from, made it feel far too stodgy.
After lunch I left feeling slightly unmoved. Although my food was ok, it was just that, simply ok. A far cry from the stellar meals I had had on so many occasions when this revered couple ran The Swan. I decided to leave this post for a year or two and go back and see how things had changed. The first time I had ever done that in five years. But I felt I owed it to the Snows.
This past weekend my wife and I were back in the Cotswolds, zooming around their narrow, idyllic streets, thatched roofs resting atop nearly every cottage, as far as the eye could see.
We sat outside this time and felt even further removed from The Swan. At The Swan you would constantly see smartly attired Cotswoldians dressed in their Sunday best. Now all I could see were seas of families enjoying their Sunday lunches. The sounds of glasses chinking and people chatting about important things at The Swan were now replaced with laughing and giggling from children and post-Saturday night 20 somethings, trying to cure a dodgy head with a fresh induction of Vodka via a Bloody Mary.
But what about the food? Well, I'm afraid it wasn't at all what I was expecting. My wife's Roast was lacking flavor and there was no reduction to the gravy at all, so it was watery and quite bland. The Jerusalem Artichokes (not sure what they were doing on the plate) were terribly fibrous and gritty. We mentioned it to our server and she said she would tell the chef. The worst for me had to be the doubly stodgy Yorkshire Puddings. They were lovely and puffy all around and terribly stodgy inside. A batch that had gone askew. That should be covered in cooking 101 and not happen in a place like this. My wife tried to tell me that some people liked them that way, and I'm sure that was true when most men went down into the mines each day, their wives giving them stodgy Yorkshire Puds and Beef Dripping, but I don't believe that's true anymore. My Fish and Chips were a nice plate of food, but the Fish was dripping with oil and I didn't like their choice of using 2 pieces of Fish instead of 1 large one as they used to serve.
However, despite my seemingly unimpressed writeup above, I will not totally condemn it. It was decent cooking for the amount of covers they had on this lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon. The pub is situated in a beautiful little village and would be ideal for a quick lunch if you're in the area. I just don't think it's anywhere close to what they had at The Swan at Southrop. That was pure magic... and I really miss it! Unfortunately, without the Snows there, I don't think it would be what it was either.
At some point I'll go back and see.
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