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Thursday, 20 January 2011

A quick two-fer. The Swan at Southrop and The Foxhunter

  Trip Adviser. Like an obnoxious child you don't want to provoke. Please never look at Trip Adviser. If you do, it will mean they've had a 'hit', and they will tell advertisers and keep their phony consumer advice going. TA works like this: You know when the service staff do something annoying? TA is the way irritable customers get back at them. It is a method of revenge. Otherwise, it's a method for dodgy restaurants to get a better profile by reviewing themselves. I mention this because last night our waitress was a bit ditzy, but it was fine. No reason not to go to the restaurant. No self-righteous whingeing here.

  The Swan and The Foxhunter are gastro-pubs with a reputation. Up until my meal last night at the former, I was convinced this review would be about how very mediocre they both are. And while that was okay it should be the standard of all pubs in the UK. But that wouldn't be accurate.

  The Foxhunter is for sale. Matt Tebbut has decided to concentrate on his television career and I very much doubt his presence will be missed. If you have the capital, The Foxhunter is a good purchase let down by its proximity to absolutely nothing. If you do take a very long trip, it isn't particularly worth it. If you're one of the few to live nearby though, it's a great local place to go on your birthday.

  We had a good time at The Dixonchaser. In fact we had a perfectly mediocre meal. It was really five out of ten, one thumb up, three stars out of five stuff. My pork belly with chickpeas and truffle jus was nicely-cooked, but not that lovely come-away-from-the-fork cooked. And there was no crackling or other thing to distract from the soft texture of everything. The venison was delicious and well-sourced but lacked seasoning, and sat on a gargantuan portion of red cabbage. The crumble for dessert was pleasant and had an artful dollop of clotted cream on top. But the cream soon ran out and ceased to lubricate the dry crumb. Our maitre d' was a nice chap, but we came away with a perfect sense of having had a lovely time we weren't in a rush to have again.

   Why on earth did Jay Rayner review The Swan at Southrop? Of all the gastro-pubs in the country he chose one -not just in the middle of nowhere but thirty miles away from anything remotely resembling anywhere- in the barrens of the north cotswolds. We only went because my mother had purchased a meal there as part of a promise auction. But of this, I am glad as we had a really wonderful time.

  The Swan is a pub that one day dreams of gastronomic stardom but is not over-extending itself just yet. The quality of the food was excellent but did not require acres of technique and careful assemblage. Put it this way, I had a baked vacherin cheese with melba toast and lamb tagine. There is nothing wrong with that (apart from the melba toast. That made no sense to me) and this is not a criticism. I'm personally disappointed that I wasn't more disappointed, and in this regard The Swan was disappointing. Mention must also be made of the jug of pouring cream. Just normal cream (single I think), in a jug to go with my dessert (crumble I believe. I think of having other puddings and see crumble on the menu and I...disaggregate) made me very happy. I like being able to adjust the creaminess ratio. I felt very pleasantly stuffed on the hour-long taxi ride home.

  I would love to unconditionally recommend both establishments but I can't. If you're in the area then they would be your best bet for a decent meal. But what, apart from stalking Kate Moss, would you be doing in those areas anyway?

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