Food & Drink Life

From Tudor Beams to Gourmet Dreams: The Swan, Midhurst

  • December 18, 2023
  • 4 min read
From Tudor Beams to Gourmet Dreams: The Swan, Midhurst

In the depths of Jane Austen country, a short carriage ride along the A3, and you will happen upon a little gem of a market town, Midhurst. In the centre of town is The Swan, a delightful 17th-century inn attached to the equally historic 14th-century Elizabeth house. As an almost sole survivor of Old Midhurst town on Red Lion Street, and after extensive restoration, the buildings stand out as a shining example of old Tudor England. The new owners, Chloe and Ross, have embraced this wonderful building and created a very warm and welcoming boutique hotel and bar. The nine rooms are all en-suite and in keeping with the age and Tudor style of the building.

However, it is in the kitchen that Chloe and Ross have delivered a tour de force with the drive of Morgan, the Langham’s-trained Head Chef. This young chef has produced an ever-changing seasonal menu that is a delight to the senses, and what is more, you feel like you have really eaten. Perched downstairs in the hustle and bustle of the bar, you are surrounded by the gnarled black beams and white-wattled walls that bear witness down on years of dinners gone by.

The autumn menu kicks off with a deep and rich French onion soup with comté croutons (£11), and quite the winter warmer, which marries perfectly with a baked camembert, tomato chilli chutney, and sourdough to share (£14). If you are feeling hungry, take in the pan-seared scallops with chestnut and apple endive, a steal at £12 and truly delicious. I’m aware of how much attention a scallop needs in cooking to achieve the translucent perfection, and Morgan’s are perfect. The apple is a very nice touch.

The main event is crowned by an impressive crackly pork belly, dauphinoise potatoes, glazed turnip, and crispy kale (£21). Not to be outdone, is a fully loaded beef burger on a brioche bun. All the condiments, sauces, and coleslaw are made in-house, so you truly get the homemade attention to detail of the Swan burger (£19). The triple-cooked chips give the pork belly a run for its money on the crunch stakes. Please note that no Swans were hurt in the making of this burger; all 100% local beef. Being so close to the sea, if you fly due south from Midhurst, the pan-fried hake with crayfish, leeks, and a bouillabaisse reduction is a joy (£21). For the vegetarian, The Swan offers the Moroccan Tagine, and as the whole menu is seasonal and prepared in-house, it reflects the time of year and is delicious (£18). However, for an extra £5, you can add lamb for the full effect.

Take a pause and drink in the atmosphere, and you can appreciate the effort Ross has put into the wines. His personal favourite, and you can tell he has invested a lot more love and time into extensive testing, is the ‘Lucale, Masseria Borgo Dei Trulli,’ an Italian wine from the mountains that grew up the same way as an Amorni (£26).

Breath now restored, please make time for THE FINISH. The locally sourced cheese board changes weekly, but all the crowd-pleasers are there. The chutneys come out of the kitchen on-site, but it’s reassuring that the cheeses themselves are delivered regularly in a little white van with the words “The Cheese Guy” emblazoned on the side. You can’t argue with that! For the sweet-toothed among you, there is a homemade lemon tart (£10) and a decadent, Black Forest gateaux (£12). It is the perfect dinner with the changing of the seasons.

Collapsing in my cosy four-poster upstairs and after a small brandy at the bar, I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of an English market town at peace. Settling into the arms of Morpheus, I dream of Falstaff and fine dining.

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Philip Ashby Rudd

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