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The White Swan - game and fine wine dinner review

The White Swan - game and fine wine dinner review

by Sally Abé 28 October 2015

One of the highlights of the colder months in the UK is the abundance of wild game available. Sally Abé makes the most of this by eating her way through a five-course game dinner at The White Swan, Fetter Lane.

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The White Swan is a lovely little gastropub in the midst of the city, stumbling distance from Chancery Lane. Part of the renowned ETM group who have ten sites all over London, The White Swan draws influences from British and European cuisines, but this night was most definitely British – a five course game dinner with wines matched by the ETM group sommelier Guillaume Mahaut.

Guillaume told us about the evening ahead as we nibbled on a rich game bird liver paté accompanied by warm toast and crunchy radishes. He explained that the wines he was pairing with some of the dishes could be seen to be a little daring but for us to go along with him and give them a chance.

Smoked venison carpaccio was served with hazelnuts, watercress and just enough punchy horseradish cream to cut through the richness of the smoky meat. It was paired with a 2012 Framingham Pinot Gris from New Zealand; off dry with notes of apple and pear, it complemented the dish perfectly without overpowering it as a heavier red wine would have done.

Smoked venison carpaccio
Roast red legged partridge

Next, we were treated to roasted breast of red-legged partridge with a tiny tortellini of confit leg meat which was a little flavour explosion backed up by the strong game consommé that accompanied it. I think I can speak for all the guests when I say I’m glad part of the cutlery for this course was a spoon with which to scoop every drop of it up! We moved to Alsace, now, with a 2012 Riesling which was soft with aromas of stone fruit and a slight mineral edge, maybe not what you would expect to be served with a game bird such as partridge, but, as Guillaume pointed, out the flavour of the bird is not strong as it would be with mallard or grouse and therefore it needed something more gentle.

The main course was the highlight of the evening: a three bird roast, something that I have aspired to make for years but never quite found the right opportunity. This one was made with mallard, grouse and teal which coincidentally happen to be 3 of my favourite game birds (lucky me). The traditional accompaniments of braised red cabbage and potato fondant were delicious but I was starting to get full and with two more courses to go I was focusing on eating the best bit, the birds! Croze Hermitage 2012 was the wonderful match with the main course, peppery with plum and cassis.


The cheese was a Burwash rose made in Sussex from raw Friesian cow’s milk and washed with English rosewater; it was pungent and silky served with a sticky date and hazelnut cake that was so wonderfully sweet I would have been happy with it for dessert. Italy was the port of call for the wine pairing: a 2013 Barbera d’Asti Fiulot with crisp acidity and cherry flavours washed the strong cheese down nicely.

The quince for dessert was poached in aromatic spices, nutmeg, cinnamon and star anise, a perfect seasonal way to end the meal and matched with a glorious 2009 sauternes, the king of all dessert wines. We managed to force(!) down a delicate little chocolate petit four with our coffees before rolling our way home, full and happy.

The chef, Chris Cooper, certainly knows his stuff when it comes to game and it really shines through on the plate. The White Swan holds regular events such as this one but rather than waiting, I’ll be going back for the à la carte in the not too distant future.

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The White Swan - game and fine wine dinner review


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