The Leicestershire dining scene just gets better and better and we popped along to one of the county restaurants that’s got everyone talking recently – The White Swan at Shawell. This year they’ve been included in both The Michelin Guide and Michelin Eating out in Pubs Guide 2018, which detail the very best UK establishments to enjoy a fine dining experience. We went along to find out how it stacked up.
The guide describes it as a “charming country pub with quality food and an enticingly unusual interior”. which on entering the venue seems very accurate. To sum up first impressions – a charming village pub with a fantastically impressive wine fridge, a modern fresh interior and incredibly welcoming staff. With Head Chef, Chris Leaper, having extensive experience in Michelin starred restaurants, we had very high hopes.
During the evening customers can dine from their 6 course tasting menus or from the a la carte. Priced at £59 the 6 course menu offers a fantastic tour of the best dishes from Orkney scallop to the Beef strip loin and cheek, whilst the vegetarian set menu includes Raclette souffle and cep risotto.
The a la carte menu offers a mouthwatering number of choices and whilst you wait there’s the extra treat of The White Swan’s bread and butter, which comes with their homemade beef dripping butter and maple butter, to keep both those with a sweet & a savoury tooth happy. A lovely added touch! The beef dripping butter sitting perfectly on the wholemeal bread and whilst the maple butter was a little sweet for our taste, it’s a wonderful combination with the tasty homemade white rolls for those with a sweet side.
The menu selection really packs a punch making decisions somewhat tricky, however the starter choices of Cornish crab risotto and Raclette cheese souffle with cep mushroom, leeks and pancetta, both proved be an excellent early indicator of why there’s been so much talk around the restaurant. With the freshness of the crab combined with the creamy risotto and the perfect light and fluffy, flavoursome raclette souffle, there’s been no compromise on quality in the ingredients or preparation of these dishes.
The prices, of course, reflect this and with the starters priced at £16 (crab risotto) and £11 (raclette souffle) it isn’t a cheap night out, however for any upcoming special occasions it’s perfect.
The selection of mains on the menu includes Pork belly with choucroute, apple, Castle Douglas haggis and Orkney scallops with cod beignets, cauliflower, smoked eel broth as well as a fabulous selection of steaks, which are priced per weight of individual steak cuts. The sides of truffle mash potato and cauliflower cheddar gratin are far too tempting to resist too.
The standout dish for us was without doubt the venison. The venison saddle came served with butternut squash, kale, parmesan and truffle mash and was simple a fantastic dish. So often with fine dining it means that you have much smaller portions, however The White Swan certainly dispelled that with the generous portion that arrived. The venison was cooked medium rare and packed full of flavour, tender to cut and hadn’t suffered any dryness through cooking. The truffle mash complimented it perfectly and it’s without doubt a stand out dish from those we’ve sampled in Leicestershire in the last few years.
Room for pudding? If you try! As with the rest of the menu the desserts will leave you stuck for choice. Rhubarb Bakewell with stem ginger, or perhaps a white chocolate & strawberry parfait with Prosecco jelly? There’s something light or heavier depending on your taste. Having opted for the Treacle tart and the Apple tarte tatin, both came served as larger portions than expected, but there were no complaints given the fantastic preparation that had gone into them. The tarte tatin in particular with the crisp pastry melting into the caramelised apples and served with a homemade ice
cream, rounding off the meal perfectly.
The service at The White Swan was outstanding (we don’t often use that word!). Quick service, polite and friendly, but not too much. Just how it should be. Sometimes it’s those little touches of excellent service that can make a meal even more memorable.
Whilst the menu prices are at the higher end for Leicestershire it’s more than justified when it comes to the food, setting and service. Additionally, if you go over on a Wednesday night they offer a Wine & Dine Wednesday menu with 3 courses for £24.95 or £29.95 including wine. Also, they have an excellent Sunday lunch menu and even serve a Champagne breakfast every Saturday.
If you’re looking for a setting for a special occasion and fancy a drive out to the countryside then we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending The White Swan. It’s easy to see why the restaurant has begun to receive the recognition it has and it will only be onwards and upwards for the team here from now on. Save your pennies and it’ll be worth it!
The White Swan is located on Main Street, Shawell, LE17 and you can find out more on their website.