Food review: The Swan Hotel, Stafford
A lazy, laid-back lunch in a lovely setting was order of the day to kick start a week’s holiday. Lisa Williams dines out at a classy brasserie. . .
Thank goodness it was Friday. Even better was the fact that it was a day off work and the start of week’s holiday. Bliss.
Starting out as we were intending to go on, me and my significant other made the decision to properly kick back without a care in the world and have lunch out.
Our dining destination was to be The Swan Hotel in Stafford, which dates back to the 18th century. It’s one of many imposing buildings on the main drag in the town’s picturesque centre which is steeped in a rich and interesting history.
Stepping inside, the place was already buzzing with drinkers in the bar, people chatting contentedly in the courtyard and diners drifting in and out for lunch.
We chose to eat in the brasserie to while away the time and avoid the lunchtime drinkers making a head start on the weekend merriment.
We were shown to the dining area but unfortunately there was no window table available to watch the world go by. Instead, we chose one tucked away in a quiet corner so we could chat amongst ourselves with no distractions from the outside world.
The brasserie looks classy and oozes glamour and charm mixing up the old with the new. Nostalgic pictures of the town adorn the walls but don’t look out of place alongside the contemporary furniture and oversized modern lighting.
There are plenty of tables for all party sizes and all are intimate enough so you can’t eavesdrop on other diners’ conversations. Who really wants to hear what Bob and Sheila are doing at the weekend?
We decided to go for the Express lunch menu, not because we were in a mad rush – we were anything but – but because the dishes were more appealing.
We went for two courses at £11.95 (it’s three for £14.95) – we had a holiday wardobe of clothes to fit into!
He went for tomato and basil soup and I went for something a little more exotic, the Greek style courgette fritters with tzatziki.
The wait wasn’t too long – given that it’s the express menu you’d like to think not – but there was a minor mix up with the soup. The wrong one was brought out – pea soup, which I’m a big fan of – but swiftly taken away and the tomato choice arrived. Shame as the pea option looked just as delicious.
His soup was a good portion size, piping hot and rich in flavour. The croutons bobbing on the surface were crispy but not dry and the accompanying crusty bread was fresh and light – the perfect summer starter.
My courgette fritters weren’t what I was expecting. I had something flat and pancakey in my mind but what arrived was completely different.
Thin slices of courgette were coated in a golden, crispy batter. I would’ve preferred the pancake style but that’s my personal preference and also my confusion over what constitutes a fritter.
Once I’d got over the description debacle, I tucked in. The courgette was soft and tasted earthy and coupled with the batter was perfect for dipping in the refreshing tzatziki sauce. I personally prefer more of a crunch to my veg so it didn’t quite hit the mark. That said, I managed to eat the lot not leaving a crumb.
As did he. Clean plates, and bowls, all round.
Once the dishes were cleared we were keen to try the mains but at this point things slowed up a little.
Given that this was the ‘express’ lunch menu, service was surprisingly laid-back and it was a good job we didn’t have any important business meetings to get to in the afternoon.
When the mains did arrive, the presentation of both dishes was – as always at The Swan – spot on.
He’d gone for Chipotle chicken with a lime and coriander sweetcorn salsa and seasoned wedges.
The thick, wedgy chips rested in their own little basket and a nice portion of grilled chicken was well laid out on the plate. The lime and coriander sweetcorn salsa, however, was too thick and offered little in the way of moisture for the dish. Again not what was expected of a salsa as usually it’s more ‘saucy’.
The meal was flavoursome but a little too dry to hit top marks. Thankfully, a smooth pint of Birra Moretti was on hand as one of the many top-notch thirst-quenchers on a summer’s day.
My main was a great success: the Mediterranean vegetable and halloumi skewers served with hummus and pitta bread chips was a real holiday-style dish.
Big chunks of pepper, cheese, mushrooms and courgette – they must have had a job lot in the kitchen – were stacked on each skewer. The pot of hummus was the perfect texture: not too smooth or too gritty with a wholesome chickpea taste, perfect for dipping the crunchy, bready-flavoured pitta chips in.
The vegetables were cooked so they still had some crunch and the salty halloumi gave the dish a little bit of a kick. The perfect taste for summer.
Once again our plates were clean and swiftly taken away.
We opted out of devouring a dessert despite the menu listing treats such as mixed berry Eton mess and praline brûlée with homemade vanilla biscuit and berries.
The bill came in under £30 which was an absolute steal for two courses each, a couple of beers and soft drinks.
The waitress was super friendly, bright and bubbly and couldn’t do enough for us which made the meal out so much more enjoyable.
We’ll certainly be swanning off for another meal there soon.