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The White Swan – a London Chophouse
Did you know that next week is Great British Beef Week (GBBW). an annual event which takes place around St George’s Day (23 April) each year, I’ m quite determined that I will be celebrating in style this year. In fact, in the interests of research, I’ve already started. Last night, lured by the promise of a beefy banquet, I went along to the White Swan Pub and Chophouse on Fetter Lane. I have to confess I haven’t been there before – from the outside it’s one of those pubs you go to after work if it happens to be near your office. But, where better to enjoy traditional British roast beef than a London Chophouse.
However, it’s part of the ETM group – gastropubs and restaurants I know and love, and I’d certainly have found an excuse to visite earlier if I’d realised that it was a cousin of Chiswell Street Dining Rooms and The Botanist.
All the ETM gastropubs and restaurants offer a great selection of beers, spirits and wines and in my experience, they also offer excellent quality food. I was really curious to see what was on offer for the promised meat banquet.
After a welcomed G&T we went upstairs to the newly refurbished restaurant area, the Chophouse. An institution which dates back to the 16th century, a traditional London chophouse is a place to feast, enjoy good wine and ale but in a relaxed environment. Original establishments for men only, they were places to gather and hatch deals while enjoying traditional British food. With the burgeoning British dining scene and a renewed interest in British food, there’s also a revival of the chophouse tradition – though fortunately for me, women are now welcome!
We started off with a selection of starters or bar snacks – crispy fried pigs ears served with applesauce, a range of croquettes including a rich black pudding version and of course haggis scotch eggs.
All quite hearty stuff, I could probably have stopped there, especially as we were drinking a very pleasant pinot noir.
But there was more to come. So much more!
The White Swan is running a special platter for Great British Beef Week – A Feast for Six, 7.5 Kilos of beef, includes: 45-day aged sirloin steak; slow braised shin and tail; roast Jacobs ladder; seared liver and kidney; roast bone marrow and sauces and a whole range of vegetables to accompany the feast. It’s priced at £290 but will easily serve 6 or perhaps 8 hungry diners. And, if you want to try for yourself you’ll need to get your skates on as it’s only available for next week.
This particular platter is based on meat from a rare breed, White Park cattle – native to the UK and established for over 2,000 years. Last night’s feast came from Marc Leatham’s farm in Dorset. It was apparently roast beef from White Park animals that was served to King James I at Hoghton Tower, near Preston, Lancashire, in 1617. When he tasted the meat he was so impressed that he drew his sword and knighted the loin of beef ‘Sir Loin’. The rest, as they say, is history!
We just focussed on enjoying the food – perfectly tender and pink rump steak was my favourite.
Like the rest of the ETM group, The White Swan will be serving White Park cattle all next week. Apart from having a particularly fine flavour, thanks to being grass fed and reared slowly, White Park cattle are something of a success story. In 1970 there were only 54 White Park cattle left in Britain, but thanks to the work of the Rare Breed Survival Trust there are now around 700 breeding cows in the UK (and more in the US and Canada)
For those who hadn’t had enough meat already, there were cocktails like this Meat Juice – a mix of Black Cow vodka and meat juices or a Bloody Meaty Mary – a twist on the famous classic, with Black Cow vodka and beef!
Whether you make it down to the White Swan in time for Great British Beef Week or not, there’s a whole range of classic dishes true to the traditional heritage of the London chophouse. From Cornish cockerel or 45 day aged White Park sirloin through to kid goats from Devon and Middle white pork with garlic mash. There’s a good range of fish too, from south coast day boats to complement the meaty menu.
Definitely somewhere to consider if anyone challenges you to demonstrate traditional British cuisine!
The White Swan
108 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1ES
Reservations: 020 7242 9696