FOOD REVIEW: The Swan Hotel, Arundel

We were doing pretty well in the first round, with questions answered about the Oscars, but by the “connections” round, we had begun to realise that we were sitting just a little too far away to fully take part in this particular quiz night. But then, we weren’t members of a properly paid-up team and our enjoyment was more as eavesdroppers. Just a pity we didn’t stay around to hear the results read out, as the friendly rivalry among the Swan Hotel’s quiz teams warmed up a chilly night in Arundel.

Our mission was culinary, rather then quizzical, to sample the fare on offer at this long-established Arundel hotel.

However, we did leave with quite a few questions of our own. Such as why had we not heard about the wonderful food served at the Swan? How did Fuller’s Brewery pull off the master-stroke of recruiting the warm, welcoming and delightful Beata Slapikaite as general manager?

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And can there be many other smaller hotels/larger pubs in the area where the manager is so dedicated to using local ingredients and goes out of her way to track them down? Or where the freshly-prepared food served to customers is several levels above the traditional pub grub we all too readily accept? There are no prizes for the answers, but our reward was a genuinely enjoyable and delicious three-course meal.

Starters range from £4-7, mains from £9-£18 and desserts from £4.50-£5.

With an old cricket bat among the sporting memorabilia above my head, I opened my innings with a starter of warm tartlet of butternut squash, roast shallots and thyme, accompanied by a dressed salad. With pastry like this, it came as no surprise to hear the Swan’s chef had won the Fuller’s pie of the year award.

My wife’s smoked mackerel starter came with a nicely-balanced potato salad and more of the dressed leaves.

I turned to the specials board for my main, chicken breast stuffed with sun-blushed tomato mousse, and served with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a red wine jus. The chicken was tender and moist, with a little sharpness as a contrast from the tomato mousse, and the potatoes were done to a turn.

Across the table, there was a womanful effort in progress to take on three Cumberland sausages perched on a peak of mashed potato and leek bubble and squeak and with a side order of vegetables properly in season. While the challenge was not completed, the ingredients were certainly appreciated and especially those veg, “cooked to perfection”, she declared.

Looking back, I can’t believe we asked for the dessert menu on top of what we had already eaten, but there it was in front of us. My poached pear with a mini ginger sponge and dollop of ice cream was a great combination and my wife’s waffle with Earl Grey ice cream lived up to her expectations, too.

We each had a glass of white Rioja from the wine list and, of course, there are many good ales on tap.

Quiz nights are regular features at the Swan, and other special occasions have included a flamenco evening. Bookings are being taken for Mother’s Day and more revelry is promised on St Patrick’s Day.