Food Review: The Swan with Two Necks, Longdon, Rugeley
The car park was relatively full and that's always a positive sign.
Clearly, I thought, the Swan with Two Necks in Longdon had a level of popularity, meaning there's a reason people pay it a visit.
I hoped the food would be one of those factors.
Inside, there was a Friday night buzz about the bar area. A sense of relief at the end of the working week and the feeling of euphoria in anticipation of the weekend ahead.
First impressions were of a traditional, cosy pub, with a welcoming bar area, a dog friendly and pictures of swans and other animals adorning the wall. Staff were polite and accommodating.
The pub says it prides itself on serving wholesome, freshly prepared meals, sourced locally, alongside real ales and an open fire in a relaxing atmosphere.
I couldn't dispute the pleasant ambience.
Though busy inside, the noise wasn't overpowering. People were warm and my partner Amy and I enjoyed a couple of short conversations with other diners while we waited for our meals.
What impressed me about the menu is that there were a few pleasant surprises on it.
Of course, with any village pub worth its weight in gold, you'd expect them to nailed the popular choices.
So on the list of starters, you had choices such as soup of the day, with bread and butter plus garlic mushrooms, served on toasted bread and balsamic glaze.
Yes, exactly what you'd expect but not likely to provide a wow factor.
What impressed me though was that the pub had a couple of starter choices you don't necessarily see elsewhere, including my choice of a Black Pudding Tower.
This was, as it says on the tin, a tower of black pudding, served with a layer of bacon.
It was surrounded by a peppercorn sauce and accompanying salad.
The combination of the black pudding and bacon was delightful and the peppercorn sauce gave the whole dish a real kick.
It felt like I was working up a bit of a sweat, with the coolness of the salad providing the balance. I really enjoyed this starter, a lovely little appetiser for the 'main event'.
Amy chose a simple yet sensational start: deep-fried brie wedges.
A crunchy outer layer made for a pleasing contrast with the meltingly good Brie encased within. Cutting into it left a satisfying ooze of cheesy goo to trickle slightly onto the plate and mix with the tangy sweet chilli sauce.
This light but delicious starter packed a punch from the offset and set our expectations high for the rest of the meal.
There were, in terms of the mains, plenty of options and all reasonably priced.
It was solid, hearty fare in many ways – homemade steak and ale pie and steak, mushroom and stilton pie were among the options.
Hunters chicken, Cumberland sausage, beer battered cod and a selection of steaks from the grill were among the further choices.
There were vegan and vegetarian options too – all at £11 – including veggie pies and burgers and a Cajun Spiced Roulade.
But Amy and I were tempted elsewhere when perusing the menu.
Any dish with salmon feels a little bit of a treat; it’s something to do with its rich flavour and distinct colour.
And so Amy chose salmon from the specials board – in this case, it was served on a bed of mash with parsley sauce.
The salmon was cooked brilliantly so it was soft, succulent and flaked apart at the mere hint of a fork.
Salmon has a fantastic flavour which was evident with this dish, but the parsley sauce took it to the next level.
Creamy and decadent, it showed traditional flavour combinations don’t have to be boring. Add in a smooth, creamy layer of mash and you have something special.
I plumped for the minted lamb shank, priced at £14, which was served with mashed potato and steamed vegetables.
The lamb was beautifully cooked, falling off the bone and melting in the mouth.
With creamy mash potato and vegetables cooked how I like them – on the softer side.
This was the kind of dish where you didn't particularly want to lay down your cutlery but, having invested completely in everything on the plate, I was left feeling well fed.
For the final course, my dining partner chose one of the homemade cakes on offer, a slice of a lemon meringue pie.
It was an impressive end to the meal with a generous helping of fluffy whipped meringue topping.
The proportions of the crisp, sweet pastry were exactly right; thin enough to have a pleasing ‘bite’ but without overwhelming the rest of the pudding.
A smooth layer of lemon filling was perfectly balanced to fall on the right side of tart, making sure all that heaped up meringue didn’t become too sickly sweet to enjoy.
I'm a sucker for a cheesecake and there were a number on offer. I opted for the Prosecco Cheesecake, not one I'd come across previously.
With a layer of blackcurrant on top, this was beautifully presented with a sauce and light dusting of sugar, as well as cream.
In truth I didn't feel this lived up to my previous two dishes. I didn't really get a hint of any Prosecco flavour but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. It was a perfectly pleasant cheesecake and rounded off a lovely meal.
The Swan with Two Necks says it's proud of its wholesome food and on the basis of my experience, I couldn't argue with them.