EAT HERE: the superb Swan restaurant (Tetsworth)
When I first moved up this way from London in the early Noughties, I ate at The Swan in Tetsworth restaurant quite a bit. Then it went off the boil, closed altogether, opened up for lunches, couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be, to whom, when, and that was it, I went off it altogether.
Over the last year the whisperings have been getting louder that The Swan is on the up again, and my interest was re-piqued. So the other week I gave it another go, and it’s every bit as good as I prayed it would be. Actually it’s better. I went in hoping for a good meal and service, and I came out raving about the whole experience. So did Mr Muddy, who decided that his next escape into male-only company – not as lascivious as it sounds (I hope) – must be at this relaxed but cool space.
The main ingredient to The Swan’s renewed success, in my opinion, is owner Antoin, below right – proudly French, exuberantly passionate about food and excited to get you to try loads of things. So yes, a great salesman too. Charming and charismatic without slipping into slimy or fawning, it reminded me how a brilliant maitre ‘d can make or break a business in this area, how rare truly stand-out service can be.
Secondly, I love the interior of the restaurant, with its high ceilings, shuttered windows, mix of faded French glamour and more rustic touches. In the day I imagine it’s light and fresh; on an evening with the candles it’s atmospheric and cosy.
Lastly and by no means least, the food is excellent. I had the cassolette de la mer with a saffron Normandy sauce (£14), followed by this cheeky magret de canard with honey and Dauphinois potatoes. It’s the second time recently I’ve been served food on a glass plate that feels strangely like you’re eating off the table and I’m kind of enthralled and appalled at the same time! I think all things taken into consideration, I’m a porcelein plate kind of gal. The duck was delicious though, succulent, rich but not cloying, with those creamy potatoes that make my jodpur thighs worthwhile.
Dessert was a pongy French cheeseboard that had Mr Muddy in paroxyms of ecstasy. What can I say, he’s a sucker for the mould.
Toilets are basic if you care about such details but do offer a look at the private dining area, below. I think I’d feel a bit squeezed in this little ante space – close to the toilets its a bit like being served in a cloakroom – but it does provide an excellent view of a chandelier from the loo so let’s appreciate that!
It goes without saying that with the antiques market just next door, The Swan is a total no-brainer for lunch, and though it’s not remotely child-driven as a restaurant – it really is a more of an adult treat – I’m sure well behaved kids would be welcome if you need to drag them along with you. We’ve all done it!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: French food lovers wanting the real deal; foodies in general; anyone after a restaurant with genuine atmosphere; romantics on an evening; larger groups particularly will enjoy the ambience and can stretch into the space offered.
Not for: Those expecting glorious outdoor space in summer. There is a small courtyard but you’re in Tetsworth and the motorway noise is a humming constant – you’ll want to stay indoors. It’s not aimed at kids – if you’re expecting crayons and colouring books, go elsewhere.
£££: On the expensive side of average – it’s treat territory, but what a treat! Entrees between £8-15, mains £18-29.