If you’ve ever worked in the vicinity, The White Swan on Fetter Lane will no doubt be known to you as a good place for a post work pint or two. Indeed, walking in on a Friday evening, it was just as rammed and rowdy as a City pub should rightfully be at the onset of the weekend.
The White Swan isn’t just about boozing, though. The overly large wine list might be a hint that there’s more to the place, or failing such intuition, the fact that the sign clearly reads ‘pub and dining room’. They don’t mean that gastropub deal of being a pub but serving some decentish grub, either. Downstairs is the pub, and two flights up is the dining room. They’re separated by toilets and (maybe) soundproofed walls, and never the twain shall meet.
The reason for the Friday visit was to attend one of the dining room’s now regular Fine Wine & British Seasonal Food Nights. At £45 per person, these nights offer five courses, all matched with wines, plus canapés, coffee and petit fours as well the chance to learn a bit more about what you’re eating and drinking.
With all five wines provided by the Capezzana Estate in Italy, and a representative on site to sell explain them to us throughout the meal, it’s clear that The White Swan has negotiated a sponsorship deal that will leave them quids in without any drinks costs. That said, top-ups come round with each course, and there’s more at the end, so in terms of what we’re quaffing, us diners are getting a good deal out of it, too.
Cash has clearly been splashed on ingredients, with generous portions of stuffed razor clams, ballotine of wild rabbit and roast haunch of venison with foie gras creamed spinach all featuring. The waiters are attentive and as good at talking about the food as they are topping up the wine. The jury’s still out on whether it’s good practice to talk about massaging a goose’s neck in order to get it to eat more and fatten it up whilst the poor thing’s liver is sitting pureed on diners plates, though.
There’s some great wine pairings throughout the evening, (particularly the Vin Santo dessert wine paired with a honey cheesecake) and a lot of very good food to get through. It may come as a shock when leaving – tipsy and full – that this whole fine dining experience has taken place upstairs in that same City pub you pass on your way out.