Restaurant review - The Swan Inn, Kettleshulme
PUBLISHED: 11:38 18 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:13 05 April 2013
You wouldn't expect a country pub high up on the Cheshire-Derbyshire border to major in fish dishes. Our reviewer was impressed by this, and so many other things, at this Kettleshulme venue. Words by Ray King
Thank goodness, says the note on the menu, that the fishermen are back at sea after the Christmas break. We now have some wonderful fish from Devon and Cornwall, all caught this week.
So where are we? In a quayside restaurant in the south west? On the contrary we are in Cheshire (of course)...and not only in the corner of the county farthest away from the sea but pretty close to its highest point above sea level. So lofty a place, indeed, that we drove up hill from Derbyshire to get here!
The whitewashed 15th century Swan Inn in Kettleshulme, on the back road out of Whaley Bridge towards Macclesfield one crosses the DerbyshireCheshire boundary half way up the hill enjoys superb views across the exhilarating walking country of the Peak District National Park.
It had been enthusiastically recommended by friends last summer, but it was in deepest January that we finally ventured there for lunch. But once across the threshold, winters chill was immediately dispelled by roaring log fires and the warmth of the welcome.
If the low beams, horse brasses, warming pans, Dickensian cartoons and rustic furnishings epitomise an immaculately-kept English country pub, the menu takes the Swan Inn onto another level altogether. Not for nothing was that appreciation of the Brixham trawler men, for the list of piscatorial delights is just wonderful: Scottish langoustines, Devon crab, Menai Strait mussels, smoked salmon and crayfish risotto and thats just for starters. Main course dishes feature lobster, sea bream, haddock, Cornish lemon sole, Dorset line-caught sea bass and monkfish. And then there are the two stars of the show: Zarzuela, a Catalan symphony of seafood and its classic French equivalent, Bouillabaisse.
How do they do it? The daily-printed menu reveals: We are now members of the British Skippers Scheme that allows participating trawlers to email details of the days catch before it is landed...to be delivered and on the plate within 24 hours. The wonders of modern technology, eh?
There are also, of course, choices to delight carnivores like roast shoulder of Cornish lamb, Aberdeen Angus rib eye and chips, Kettleshulme pork belly, mandarin duck breast and boeuf bourguignon, but after admirable starters, the fish mains were irresistible. I began with lambs kidneys, pan roasted pink and served with brandy and green peppercorn sauce with home-made bread to mop up (7): absolute comfort and joy. Mrs K chose fresh figs wrapped in prosciutto and baked with Stilton and honey (6.50) which delivered a delicious sweet-sour-salty combination of tastes and harmonious flavours.
For my fishy main I pondered: zarzuela or bouillabaisse? Bouillabaisse or Zarzuela? Both comprised more or less the same seafood but prepared in their authentic individual regional manner. In the end I plumped for the Provencal classic a hearty bowl generously piled with Bantry Bay mussels, tiger prawns, Palourde clams, tender squid, Cornish gurnard and sea bream in a fabulous broth infused with saffron and the subtle anise flavour of fennel and Pernod all topped with a giant fleshy scallop, complete with coral, in its shell. Yes, 21 does seem expensive for a pub lunch main course, but this was magnifique; so rollicking good it sang La Marseillaise.
My wife was no less impressed with her choice: a duo of boned sea bream fillets pan-fried with wild mushrooms in sweet chilli (15). The bream each fillet a plump 2cm thick was perfectly cooked delivering a creamy texture and delicious seafoody flavour for which the earthiness of the mushrooms and stab of chilli provided an excellent marriage. A platter of seasonal vegetables accompanied.
The generosity of the portions dictated that we shared a dessert and a light one at that. Vanilla and orange pannacotta with honey roast fig and exquisitely perfumed rose syrup provided exactly that: a lovely finale to an exceptional feast. Our house white Concha y Toro sauvignon blanc from Chile (14.50) provided a fine partner to that fantastic fish.
The Swan Inn, Macclesfield Road, Kettleshulme, Cheshire SK23 7QU.
Tel: 01663 732943;