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Restaurant review: The Swan, Bampton

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With two new AA rosettes it might look like The Swan in Bampton is gliding along serenely, but it’s all down to some furious paddling, discovers Jo Rees

Like the old adage about the swan gliding along while paddling furiously beneath the surface, things are not what they seem at The Swan in Bampton.

Paul and Donna Berry, the chef proprietors of the Exmoorstyle Devon pub, have been on a mission to take its already very good food to the next level. They’ve been driving on with consistent innovation and development of the food over the last couple of years, and now? Well, your usual pub food it ‘aint.

On entering the attractive, but resolutely pubby building, it’s a surprise to find a seriously interesting menu of restaurant quality dishes – which has won The Swan two newly awarded AA rosettes. Paul’s clearly thrilled with the attention they’ve been receiving and rightly so, as dishes such as a meaty fillet of Brixham cod served on ribbons of vegetables with a crab sauce and a dollop of tomato and pancetta jam are seriously good and beautifully presented – in portion sizes to keep the farmers happy.

For creative chefs, inspiration comes from everywhere, and in the case of the cod dish, it was Paul’s Proustian memories of his nan’s egg and bacon supper. ‘She’d serve it with “tomato gravy” made by reducing tinned tomatoes in the pan in which the bacon had been cooked,’ says Paul, swooning with delight at the memory. You can go rustic here too with dishes like steak and kidney suet pudding or a good steak, but they’re still done exceptionally well – the steak, 28 day dry-aged and served with celeriac puree, a Devon Blue cheese bonbon and piccolo tomato.

Rarely do you find such a knockout pub menu, with restraint in the number of dishes, demonstrating bold use of flavours and techniques. Naturally then, the puds are worth a mention, especially the iced peanut butter and banana parfait with peanut brittle and caramelised banana. Wines are well priced and, as you’d expect, there are lots of good beers on offer. Finish with cheese and biscuits with port and luxuriate in a bloody good feed, in a bloody good pub.

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