White Swan (Fence, Lancashire - near Burnley )

First lunch out post lockdown/shielding. Other half’s birthday. Michelin starred pub en route (kind of ) to Lakes for the weekend.
First impressions - subtle, restau but still a pub vibe- no one wearing masks neither staff nor any customers. Disconcerting at first but soon feels safe. Easy to forget covid ever happened/is happening still.
Its a set lunch - 45 quid a head. No choices save that they offer us the option of buying mash ( 5 quid a portion ) as a side to go with our main course. They tell us we will only need one between us ( in which case why charge us more- 2.50 each ? are margins really that tight ? perhaps they are ) so we order one. More of the mash later.

We start with some bread and butter. With chicken liver parfait sprinkled with a kind of foie gras crumb. Very moreish indeed. Could have scoffed more bread but that’s perhaps because I’m greedy.
Next up was a tomato consommé with dill oil which I had very faint hopes for having been seriously underwhelmed by something similar at Northcote a few years ago…but which was just wonderful. Light, flavourful and just right in every respect.

Best course was next - mackerel fillet, scallop, yuzu and cucumber. Lick the plate good.
At this point I was raving to my other half about how good the place was…

Then came the main of seabass, with watercress & hollandaise. A fair old portion of the hollandaise…

At which point enter stage left the mash.
Quite a creamy/ buttery mash. To go with a hollandaise and fish.
Mash served in a bowl ( not quite the rammekin I had once had mash in at the The Oxo Tower which remains my most heinous food rip off ever ).
Fish served in a bowl.
Mash meet fish.
In a bowl.
And it was all lovely but just ended up seeming a bit, well, sloppy.
Scumbags that we are we whispered that it was crying out for a chip rather than mash . Even a chunky chip, John.
Just something with a crunch rather than mush. We started talking about textures but felt a bit Master Chef about doing that so cut it out. Nevertheless a disappointment, and charged extra for it. Would have enjoyed the course more without it, but hey ho.

Puddings next and my second favourite course of the day. Honey two ways -one a cream at room temperature and one an ice cream, ginger and toffee. Nice crunchy tuille biscuit. Lovely interplay of honey and ginger. Tiny portion eked out a looong time to maximise pleasure.

Final course was a tiramisu. A deconstructed one.
Gah. That aint tiramisu at all. Its some tiramisu elements in a bowl. Admittedly the chocolatey bit of it was lovely, but I wasn’t wowed.

Other half ordered mint tea ( lovely and fresh leaves ) and we were given a couple of hand made chocolates to go with. Very nice but not life changing.

Service was great up until this point…at which point it was kind of lost. Ended up having to go to the bar and ask to pay. No one asked if we’d enjoyed it - do they just presume we did ? No one said ‘bye’ or ‘thanks for coming’ . So left feeling a bit abandoned, which was odd because we’d really enjoyed the majority of the food and would consider going back as its only an hour from home.

Did they overhear our chip chat ?
Were they upset that the pudding plate they wrote Happy birthday on in chocolate was given to me and not my other half ( Emlyn being often mistaken for a girls name up here ) and so I had to pass it to her ?
Was it something we said or didn’t say ?
Or was it just me expecting too much on my first trip out ?

Mixed ( or should that be mashed ? ) blessings, either way :wink:


I’m not a major fan of mash. It has its uses - but with fish isn’t one of them, IMO.

I also note that you mention it’s now £45 which is a fair old lift from the £35 this time last year. Covid, eh?

Now, speaking of Covid, we were at a gaff in the middle of nowhere “dahn sarf” last night. First night of the new restrictions, including putting your mask on when you go for a pee. Does anyone do that? Nope. Do the staff mention they should? Nope. I got a very funny look from on table when I went past them, mask in place. It all felt that “we’re posh country people, rules don’t apply to us”. By contrast, we’d had lunch at a branch of Comptoir Libanais where we were politely reminded that we did need to put our masks on when we left our table for any reason. Places would quickly tell folk they couldnt smoke so why not about complying with other restrictions.


They’ve just put it up to 50 quid. New restrictions eh ? :upside_down_face:
Will be interesting to see if it comes down again.

Interesting on the COVID tales, once we got up to Cumbria we stayed in a small village, which has one pub. We went for a drink first night and then for ( very mediocre ) tea the next. That was my first pub visit since lockdown - other half’s brother seemed very keen so we went along with it.

Was anyone wearing masks in the boozer, staff or customers ? No.
Were we asked for our T&T contact details ? No.
Was there just a form you could fill your name and mobile number in on by the door when you came in ? Yup.
So, if you want to, you can leave your sensitive personal data there for all the world to see and for any passing psychotic farmer to pick up - is that the plan ?
I do wonder if its

  • posh folk - rules don’t apply to us ( wonder where they got idea from ? )
    -country folk - low rates round ere, we’ll be fine
  • others - so long as we all leave the pub together at 10 its fine.

And we wonder why cases are skyrocketing…
There was good little piece in Hardens today about the shocking failure to set up proper T&T, make the face mask rules clearer and compulsory earlier and the utter lunacy of the ‘one hour earlier closing’ fiasco.

Right, time for a beer and to recount me loo rolls…


Been in Rye for several days - restaurant every night. In the main, places seem to have taken their Covid arrangements seriously - tables spaced, masked staff, windows open. We’d pre-booked everything so they had details for T & T (about which I could do a full 20 minute rant about its piss poor performance). Listened to the local news one night and was gob smacked that Folkestone current has an infection rate of less that 2 per 100k. Yes, two. Now, with it being that low, I can well understand locals saying “Nah, Covid’s nowt to do with us. It’s all them northerners”.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2