Thursday 12 September 2019

White Swan at Fence, Lancashire.

Whenever I see the word 'challenging' to describe a chef's food, alarm bells go off in my head. I think, that's fine but you can do it with somebody else's money. I don't want challenging, I really just want delicious. This is the reason why we've never been to Mugaritz in the Basque Country. We all know that Tripadvisor is generally awful and terrible for the industry but take a look at the reviews for that particular 'challenging' restaurant, it certainly makes for interesting reading. I'm not in the market for gambling €350 each for what at least half of the customers writing reviews on TA agree is challenging but also unsuccessful and unpalatable.
I am however very much in the market for two Michelin star courses for £27 or three for £35 in the Lancashire village of Fence.
I wouldn't describe chef Tom Parker's food as challenging. I would call it absolutely gorgeous and packed full of flavour like the wonderful style of his mentor Nigel Hawthorne of Michelin starred Northcote.
 I've been to the White Swan twice now, firstly on my own when I had a spare day off shooting food professionally. We then returned together for my recent birthday and we took our two dogs. Can you name anywhere else in Britain where you can eat Michelin star food and take your furry friends? * This is not a rhetorical question, I would like to know so I can visit.
On this second visit first, we ordered dishes to share so we could sample as much as possible. There is also a 6 course tasting menu for £60.
The excellent home made bread rolls to begin on both occasions are good and crusty, served with a richly flavoured foie gras liver paté and a lovely creamy whipped butter. 
Tomato Consommé. Hebden Bridge Goats Cheese Gnocchi, nocellara olives, basil and marjoram. Absolutely lovely, a warm taste of the Summer, the tomatoes explode with flavour on your tongue.
Warm Salmon Gravalax. English Wasabi buttermilk, apple and dill. I had something similar to this on my first visit and I loved both (with cucumber and radish on that occasion, picture below). Such a beautiful dish.
Suckling Pig. Garden Courgette, basil and crab apple. The crispy crunchy skin is just right, with the soft fleshy pork underneath, it's perfect. (*Note the plating was perfect before I accidentally stuck my finger in it).
Whitby Cod, Smoked Bacon, Scottish girolles and onion. I think this one was our favourites, we love the flavoursome liquid broth that accompanies the delicate fish.
Veal Sweetbreads, Artichoke Madeira and thyme (pictured below) was another richly flavoured beauty from my first visit in May.
Desserts were also strong on both visits. Tiramisu. Banana Ice Cream, Michel Cluizel Chocolate, coffee bean and caramel may well be my perfect dessert. Mrs B loved her Blueberry Crumble Soufflé. Beetroot Ice Cream and white chocolate custard. It's well worth the extra £5 surcharge.
Over two visits I'm yet to eat a dish that didn't work and wasn't beautiful and I love those odds. White Swan at Fence is in my favourite three places to eat in the UK overall, it's certainly my favourite pub. It's incredible value, the food is always superb and full of flavour, it's in an unpretentious setting, they serve Timothy Taylor Landlord and the staff are all absolutely lovely. Even the coffee is decent, not always the case in good restaurants.
My advice is this, avoid those places that may attempt to try and 'challenge' you, they're rarely as successful as you'd hoped, (with a few exceptions) and they're rarely as good as here. You can keep your cutting edge, I'm just sticking to safe bets like this where lovely people just simply serve you wonderful food.

10/10. Everything was perfect over two visits. We couldn't fault anything.
* Dog Friendly tables in the bar area only not on Friday/Saturday evenings. We specify this when booking.