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Pub, Restaurant and Chophouse, The White Swan, Fetter Lane.
Once upon a time Fleet Street, Chancery Lane and Fetter Lane were dominated by journalists and newspaper workers. Traditional pubs and bars thrived with their custom, while the ‘other’ big employers in the area, the Inns of Law seemed less prevalent. What is now the White Swan was The Mucky Duck. When ETM first took over the premises, the newspaper businesses of London had by and large already moved out of the City and the whole area had changed. Perhaps to accommodate the new market, The White Swan opened as a pub on the ground floor with a restaurant and chophouse above. And, over the years, the food side of the business has become increasingly important.
That said, lovers of the traditional pub will still feel perfectly at home in the wood-panelled ground floor bar, with a well-stocked bar selling Adnams Ghost Ship, Long Arm and Sharp’s Doom Bar together with a range of guest beers, wines and spirits. Upstairs though, there’s a cosy restaurant where you can enjoy classic British food with a bottle of wine, a cocktail or some of the excellent beers from downstairs.
We went along to sample some of the food upstairs at the White Swan – it’s the kind of place you might not know about unless you work in the area. While the pub downstairs is usually busy with post-work drinkers, upstairs is peaceful and tucked away from the buzzing bar.
A bottle of Ortega Ezquerro, Crianza, Rioja, Spain ‘15 which at £34.50 seemed good value and was beautifully fruity, warm and robust. Probably not the best pairing for either of our starters, but a good sipping wine and one that worked very well with the main courses we ordered.
Citrus cured Scottish salmon with dill cream cheese and toasted rye bread was delicious, firm and piquant with lemon. The dill cream cheese added a good textural contrast and dainty triangles of bread were lovely and nutty to nibble on.
My companion’s Whitby scampi came served in a stylish Staub casserole with a little copper pan of homemade tartare sauce on the side. The scampi was succulent and juicy with a perfectly cooked crumb coating.
For mains, I opted for the 350g aged sirloin chop with hand-cut chips and watercress served with a shallot and red wine sauce.
Immaculately presented, the steak was perhaps a little closer to medium than medium-rare, but not enough that I felt it necessary to send back – or to spoil what was an excellent portion of meat with great flavour. Chips were perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy inside.
My companion’s duck breast was beautifully pink on the inside and came with a rich jus, a most confit duck leg croquette, roasted plum and savoy cabbage. Proper winter food here, the plate was cleaned!
Puddings at the White Swan are currently in transition and I opted instead for the British Cheeses, a lovely selection of Black Cow Cheddar, Mrs Bell’s Blue and Baron Bigod. I rather like oatcakes, but I do take note of my companion’s point – there seems to be a trend at the moment to only offer one type of biscuit with cheese – fine if like me, you do like them, but it would be good to see an option here.
My companion’s ‘baked vanilla cheesecake with winter fruit compote and toasted almonds’ didn’t seem to match the menu description. The fruit compote was identical to my apple chutney, there was no sign of almond and the cheesecake was lovely but not the baked kind. We pointed this out to the restaurant manager and he vanished into the kitchen to find out more. When he reappeared it was with a really delicious chocolate ganache with honeycomb and ice cream. I do hope this delicious if rich option makes it onto the menu!
What we liked best about The White Swan was the friendliness of the team and the sheer comfort factor of the food. Everything was delicious in that ‘no-fuss’ kind of way. Starters range from £6 to £9 while mains are mostly around £15 (the sirloin chop is pricier at £24 but oh so worth the extra). Puddings are all £6. Despite being a ‘chophouse’ there are veggie and plant-based options on the menu. We’d like to see a little more variety in the ‘chops and cuts’ section (some lamb perhaps and a couple of other steak options) and we appreciate that the puddings are evolving.
But, this is somewhere we’d happily come back to with friends. On a previous visit, we tried the excellent beer-battered fish and chips and the cheeseburger and we’re looking forward to trying the pie of the day.
The White Swan
108 Fetter Lane,
London EC4A 1ES
We dined as guests of The White Swan.