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The White Swan – Riverside, Twickenham
Nothing screams out British more than a good old Sunday roast. It’s that first meal that everybody remembers from their childhood and the only meal that seems to be programmed in to us from a young age (I’ve not met anyone who can’t cook a roast). You can be a beef, lamb or nut roast lover, but everyone loves a Sunday roast. It has this great sense of nostalgia about it and is that one meal a week where, hangover or not, everyone looks forward to. It is also the meal where mums are pitted against each other.
Apparently, everyone’s mum makes the best roast potato in the world! Last Sunday, Steve and I went for a day out in Richmond, with Sunday lunch at this pub I had been told about called The White Swan. It ticked all the boxes. Sunday, pub, river, countryside (anything outside zone 2 in London is countryside to me, anything outside the M25 is international) and roasts. It sounded like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon and the perfect place to have a roast dinner. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.
We started off the day in quite possibly the gayest way possible. Looking at china plates/cake stands and walking along the river. I then spotted a sign saying “rowing boats for hire”. Well that seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I thought it would be a great way to get to the pub, The White Swan, as it’s right on the river bank. We hired a boat out for the day and started to row upstream. It’s safe to say that we’re not going to be participating in team GB’s rowing team at the 2016 games.
I crashed the boat in to a family and I also fell off the seat whilst rowing…twice. Steve was a lot better at it than me, although he did nearly crash into a few things along the way (mainly because I kept forgetting to tell him which way to go). After about 45mins, we arrived at The White Swan. The pub looked fantastic. There was a little beach to boat up on to, which was fantastic. Outside the pub, they have a beer garden, which pretty much sits on the river. I was told that at high tides, the water actually laps at the base of the tables. Not too sure if I’d like that or not to be honest. I get annoyed when I step in a puddle, so having the Thames saturating my feet might send me over the edge. That said, joined on to the front of the pub is another small seating area. So if like me, you’re not too keen on the whole wet feet scenario, there is another option for al fresco dining (or drinking). The exterior of the pub is quaint and quite British. It really was a good old countryside pub. Everything about it oozed wholesomeness and charm. We obviously were the townies on a day out.
We headed to our table and pondered through the menu. It had all your classics. Bangers & Mash, Fish & Chips and Roast Vegetable Pasta etc. But we weren’t here for that. We were here for a good old roast. Drinks wise, it had everything you would expect from a countryside pub. Don’t expect a wine list that will blow you away. The choice is good, but uninspiring. I stuck with Portobello Pilsner, a light beer that has a cereal nose and a light body with hints of citrus and malt. A delicious beer. Steve went for a Rekorderlig cider, a Swedish cider, which is quite pleasant on a hot day, to cure a hangover or to quench a thirst.
To start with, we decided to share the duck liver pate. Both of us love pate, so we were looking forward to this. Unfortunately, what came out was pretty dismal. The pate lacked in flavour and seasoning. It had been over chilled and was a horrible grey colour all the way through and the toast was more like the stale pieces of baguette that you can buy in those bags from supermarkets. The only thing lending flavour to this dish was the butter and the caramelised onions. A poor start.
When it came to the mains, we really wanted the entire roast offering. The beef, pork, lamb and chicken. So we came up with the inspired idea of ordering all four, but as children’s portions! “You guys are geniuses” I hear you scream! And yes, we are.
The pub was really busy and seemed quite popular, so I was pretty much sure that this was going to be something special. I mean, how hard is it to get a roast wrong? Not that hard at all apparently.
The 4 roasts came out and all seemed pretty sad. Now, in all fairness, we had ordered the kids portions, so I wasn’t expecting a mountain of Sunday roast delight, but I was expecting a bit better presentation. The vegetable consisted of braised red cabbage (which was lovely), carrots and green beans. The carrots and beans were just plain nasty. It really annoys me when chefs have no imagination when it comes to serving vegetables and this place committed the worst crimes of all. NO SEASONING! They were pretty much just boiled vegetables. Not even glazed in butter.
I asked if the adults’ dishes were prepared differently and was told that the only difference is the portion size. How disappointing. The roast potatoes were actually pretty nice. I’m not sure if they had run out of their usual roast pots, but we had roasted new potatoes that WERE seasoned and cooked perfectly. The gravy (a very important component in the roast) was pretty good. It had hints of red wine and rosemary in there which I think was to help disguise the fact that they were using premade gravy granules. I may be wrong, but I did get a tiny hint of “aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. Bisto”. So far, the whole meal had been a bit of a letdown. Will the meat save the day? No. The pork belly was all belly and pretty much no pork. The crackling was so tough, that you couldn’t even bite in to it, let alone cut in to it! The chicken was as dry as Gandhi’s flip flop. Nando’s chicken would have been better. The lamb was overcooked and tasteless and the beef, well, the beef was actually pretty nice. It could have been a bit pinker, but by far the best part of the meal.
I’m not sure if it was the fact that we ate quite a bit, or that the food wasn’t as great as we had hoped, but we decide not to go for a dessert, but to head back to the “mainland”.
It’s a shame when such an iconic meal as the roast is done badly. Whenever I have friends in from abroad, I have this great sense of pride when I take them to a pub/restaurant and introduce them to a Sunday roast. Because of that, I want to make sure that the place I take them to knows how to cook a roast properly and takes pride in it themselves. That all said, The White Swan does have a lot of positive things going for it. The staff are pleasant enough, gorgeous views and surroundings and a nice selection of ales. I won’t be going back for food, that’s for sure, but I would go back for a drink and to soak up the scenery.
Final bill, excluding service £53.25