It’s been a couple of years since I discovered The Swan at Bampton; husband and wife team and chef patrons, Paul and Donna Berry, were pretty active on social media, proudly sharing their offering on the digital walls contained within my phone and laptop and engaging in foodie conversations with other establishments and foodies alike, but without the hard sell.
Their ethos for supporting local suppliers and offering really local food and ingredients to their customers was already happening before it became more common place.
The roasts looked so good, I had no doubt in choosing them for my own personal Mother’s Day treat for roast lunch in early 2017 and have taken my extended family along for Sunday lunch since then too.
Having won too many awards to mention, their trophy cabinet is a testament to their outlook, hard work and food offering. But, don’t be fooled or put off by awards – this is not an eatery offering upmarket smaller food at high end prices in a quiet dining room – these awards, stripes, sweat, blood and tears are all rewards for wanting to feed people with hearty and tasty food in a warm bustling environment where everyone is welcome including kids and furry friends. They also have a dining room at the rear of the building, up some stairs which is used for normal service, but can also be booked for group dinners and celebrations.
What has also evolved recently is their South West gin offering! You’d be hard-pressed to find such an extensive gin list – we sampled a few including one from slightly further afield – Japan!
So to the food. First up – homemade crumpet, salt beef, celeriac remoulade, hollandaise sauce, poached egg for hubby and pork cheek lasagne for me. The homemade crumpet was really well made (this is something you only ever eat from the supermarket), and the beef and celeriac remoulade were lovely coated – with a perfect poached egg served to the side at hubby’s request. I don’t know what other starters there were…I saw PORK CHEEK LASAGNE and knew that was the jackpot; I’m so glad I wasn’t let down. Unctuous meat tucked amongst saucy, cheesy, pasta. I certainly lingered over this dish even though it was in a petite le creuset-type pot.
For the main event, slow cooked blade of beef, roasted heritage vegetables, soft onion mash, black kale and sprout tops for moi, and corn fed chicken breast, lemon, thyme parsnip puree, crackling, honey roasted parsnip, fondant potato and jus for my partner in crime.
The beef was so tender, I boomerang-video’d it’s fall-apart-ability – soft, juicy, springy and incredibly tender. Sitting majestically on a creamy pile of mash, surrounded by well cooked veg and tasty meat sauce. The tender chicken breast was going down well on the other side of the table – it had a delicate flavour of lemon and thyme, with earthy greens and a super soft, buttery fondant, the chicken was well supported by it’s accompaniments.
Now. Dessert. Hearty fair aside, The Swan know how to do puds. Close your eyes, tasty, childhood-memory type puds. I opted for the vanilla pannacotta, black cherry’s, aerated chocolate cake, and clotted cream ice cream. Hubby, who does not have a sweet tooth, was easily persuaded for one of his few sweet indulgences – sticky ginger pudding with vanilla ice cream.
My creamy, wobbly, vanilla-laced pudding was perfect, with no evidence of over-excitement with gelatin. The more savoury chocolate accents with the bittersweet cherries and wonderful ice cream was just all a delight. Full approval from mr savoury – he was very pleased with his sweet choice. A moist, and well gingered pudding in a silky sauce with even more excellent ice cream.
Now after all this food, you need a good sleep – so what more could you want than to walk upstairs to one of the lovely rooms at the top of their country pub?
There are 3 rooms on offer – Room 1 “Bevy” is a twin, Room 2 “Cobb” is a double and Room 3 “Penn” is a kingsize. We stayed in Penn – it was a really good size and well decorated with solid hardwood furnishings, Nespresso coffee machine, plenty of tea options, a complimentary homemade sweet treat and even an honesty box of snacks if you happen to be peckish (I’m not sure anyone could be peckish!). We loved the bathroom wallpaper, a touch of the tropics in Bampton! It is worth noting that this is on the 2nd floor of the pub and due to the age of the building, there is no alternative to the stairs. There was minimal noise from outside which was great, and the mattress and bed were firm and sturdy.
Morning came, and breakfast was no afterthought. A fairly simple but perfect offering in that you can choose any juice on offer behind the bar, and cereal is available on the bar, but this is all about the cooked breakfast. The menu oozed of local produce and you could taste it in all the high quality ingredients, especially the black pudding.
So with very full bellies, we rolled out of the Swan into the fresh Exmoor air and ventured out for a walk to burn it all off.
The Swan is certainly doing something right; if you don’t book a table most evenings and weekends, you’re not getting in. At the heart of the community, locals and diners from further afield all descend on this great country pub. Service is very homely and personable, food is delicious, generous and of an excellent quality. Paul and Donna are very down to earth and proud of their pub, their offering, and are happy to welcome everyone to dine or drink in it. Make a plan to visit for their award-winning, belly-filling fayre – why not make a night of it too?
The Swan, Station Rd, Bampton, Tiverton EX16 9NG
*I was invited to enjoy complimentary dinner, bed and breakfast in exchange for a blog post on my experience, this has not affected my opinion – it’s a blimmin’ great pub – fact!*