The unbeatable combination of restaurant-quality food, a cosy pub setting and cheerful service have placed The Swan at Bampton in the fine dining premier league, finds Jo Rees
As current winners of Trencherman’s Best Dining Pub, no. 28 in the top 50 Estrella Damm Gastropubs and holder of two AA rosettes and Tourism Pub of the Year 2018, it’s clearly not just the locals who rate The Swan.
Paul and Donna Berry bought the pub six years ago (they previously also had the Quarryman’s Rest in the village), thoroughly gutting it to create a comfortable and unpretentious environment for great cooking.
From the beginning they had their sights set on a superior experience: it was clear from the skilfully put together drinks list and well executed dishes drawing on influences from around the globe.
VISIT for lip-smackingly delicious food from talented chef patron Donna and new head chef Olivier Certain. Imagine fine dining dishes without the fancy fripperies, with the portions sized up a notch and you’ve got the gist.
An emphasis on flavour, classic combinations and smart but simple presentation tick all the boxes. You can also stay the night (there are three bedrooms for B&B) and enjoy comfy accommodation at keen prices so you won’t have to brave the edge-of-Exmoor lanes late at night.
DON’T VISIT for a hushed dinner spent whispering sweet nothings to your amour. The charm of eating at The Swan is the buzz: tables lie around the edge of the busy bar which is also home to locals sipping post-work pints and girlfriends catching up over prosecco. With the chatter and clatter it’s the rural equivalent of a rocking London restaurant on the weekends.
WE LIKED a glass of fizz by the log burner, the hot puff of raspberry soufflé, an umami hit of pig’s cheek lasagne to start and a very civilised country breakfast in the pub with stacks of crisp toast, thickly cut bacon and amber local eggs.
INSIDER’S TIP The talented Oliver Certain (ex-Clavelshay Barn and Woods) has just joined Donna and the kitchen team in a new head chef role.
What we ate (dinner)
Starter Pig’s cheek and smoked ham hock lasagne
Main Fillet of Brixham cod, Bombay potato, roasted cauliflower, carrot and cumin puree
Pud Steamed sticky ginger pudding with sticky ginger sauce and vanilla ice cream
3 courses from £24.95, B&B from £95 for two