Review: The Black Swan, North Yorks

Neat bar snacks

Neat bar snacks

They seem to be having a good time at the Black Swan, rummaging the fields and hedgerows for wild ingredients and making all kinds of concoctions and decoctions out of them. As it was a balmy day I enjoyed a bright green and refreshing glass of apple marigold lemonade to begin with. Other enticing cordials were offered, and our lunchtime tasting menu had plenty of forage on it.

The bar downstairs is a dark and properly pub-y space, although I don’t think the Swan makes any pretense of still being the local boozer; it’s a fine restaurant in the bucolic North Yorkshire countryside that happens to be in an old pub building. The dining room upstairs is hung with a changing display of guest artists and is otherwise bright, airy and country. Staff are friendly. Again, for a nominal “pub” the wine list was surprisingly high end, with all but one wine by the glass over £10. So: it’s fine dining.

A very carroty salad

A very carroty salad

The nibbles started down in the bar. Nice fresh radishes in a very good mushroom-y soil, neat scotch quails eggs with a tangy piccalilli sauce. We went for the five course menu, and our starter was a carrot salad. Roast carrot, raw carrot, radish, pickled baby turnips, a few sharp leaves and some hazelnuts bits. This might have come out better with some more deep, cooked flavours but there was just too much raw carrot. It was a nice scrunchy salad, I’ll grant you. Our fish was trout, with a glistening blob of smoked squid ink sauce on top, radishes and a “radish broth”. Which sounded interesting but was essentially chicken stock in flavour. So: inventive combo, but not a gigantic success.

They did a proper pub thing for the main. Lamb, new potatoes and mint: it’s nigh impossible to fail to please with those. And this was a great dish, with a fantastically flavoured piece of belly cooked to perfection and a firmer piece of meat (oops, I forget which!) equally well treated. Neatly presented too, and they even found room for some pickled radish! I guess the garden overfloweth with radishes this week?

That left one, that's a porcini lolly!

That left one, that’s a porcini lolly!

Pre-desserts were three charming ice cream lollies, and the first one gets a prize for most awesomest ice cream this summer; it was a porcini lolly! The dessert looked small, delicate and beautiful with flower petals scattered about so it was surprising how high it punched in flavour. The honey elements, such as the crunchy honeycomb, were all made with a really potent heather honey, the flower petals were a strong mix of bitter and perfume, the little yellow blobs sang lemons and the elderflower sorbet was very clean. Very small dessert, to be honest, but very good. Then again a couple of nice petit fours pretty much filled us up!

Chef Tommy Banks at the Black Swan is obviously thoughtful and inventive, and very clearly in love with the cottage garden they’ve got growing out back. Some of the dishes were not-quite-hits, but all in all I really enjoyed my lunch at The Black Swan as there was so much to like too. I have a good sense that they’re only going to get better. At £55 for the menu it feels about fair, though you could spend a lot on wine.

Beautifully presented pud

Beautifully presented pud

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