The Swan Inn at Great Horwood, Review

We like a good pub here at Two Men About Town – no, really, we do – we’ve posted no less than nine posts in three months about local pubs in Milton Keynes, even recently sharing our guide to our favourite Milton Keynes beer gardens; so in the interest of variety, we thought it would be prudent to share another review. Of a pub.

The good people of The Swan Inn got in touch and invited us down to visit and sample their food so obviously we jumped at the chance and headed down on a sunny midweek evening.

The Swan Inn is located in the pretty village of Great Horwood in Buckinghamshire, a short drive from Milton Keynes or, in the other direction, Buckingham. The Swan Inn’s friendly landlord, Graeme, was on hand at the bar to greet us on arrival and after quick introductions, took us through the restaurant area to our table.

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The Swan Inn at Great Horwood Interior
The Swan Inn at Great Horwood Dining Area
The Swan Inn at Great Horwood Dining Area

First impressions of The Swan Inn were rooted in it having a warm and friendly atmosphere, very much helped by how friendly and attentive Graeme and the rest of his team were for the duration of our service. However, we found the visual presentation made up of The Swan Inn’s interior décor, dark furniture and plastic menu wallets perhaps a little dated and in need of a refresh; style cues could be taken from the likes of The Black Horse in Woburn, but I hasten to add that there was nothing that was hugely offensive.

With drinks swiftly brought over, including a *gorgeous* white rioja (that I could definitely go for another glass of or two, top suggestion guys!), it was time to get down to business and explore The Swan Inn’s food offer.

Food Review of The Swan Inn, Great Horwood

We jumped straight for the home-smoked duck breast with liver parfait, duck-fat crouton and pineapple chutney, alongside The Swan Inn’s scallops.

The pictures really fail to do both dishes justice, the kitchen had done a great job with visual presentation and both starters smelt devine! The home-smoked duck breast was the clear winner here, particularly the tangy pineapple chutney which complemented the melt-in-the-mouth duck, downright delicious. The scallops were also well cooked, creamy and full of flavour.

So far, so good!

Next up was the main event; a traditional chicken supreme alongside a trio of locally-sourced venison sausages with creamy mash, onion gravy and crispy shallots.

This was perhaps where the meal fell down – the chicken supreme particularly. It looked nice enough, with grilled asparagus and grand pandano risotto, however wasn’t anything overly exciting. For the pricely sum of £15.00, this dish seemed overpriced and really didn’t standout as something that couldn’t be cooked at home. Sorry guys.

On a more positive note, the locally-sourced venison sausages were rich and deep in flavour and the mash beautifully creamy just how I like it, however combined it just didn’t excite me in the way I was hoping the £13.00 pricetag for a posh bangers n’ mash, let alone the very promising efforts from the starters, might or should have done.

Things improved significantly as we moved onto what turned out to be the highlight, this being The Swan Inn’s homemade desserts. The first dessert, a crumble with shortbread and a beautifully-rich strawberry and rhubarb pouring accompaniment (which was like nectar!) was SO good, mouthwatering stuff. The other dessert, a white chocolate cheesecake was also rather delightful, particularly the red-wine marinated cherries which complemented the white chocolate beautifully.

It’s too easy for pubs and restaurants to simply buy in desserts, so it’s important to acknowledge and congratulate The Swan Inn for doing such a fine job with their homemade efforts. I could easily go back for this one course.

The Swan Inn, Great Horwood: Review Verdict

It certainly wasn’t a bad meal at The Swan Inn, but without a doubt the main courses let the fantastic starter and dessert offer down; I suspect we might have had a more positive experience had we have often for the steak or burger on the menu. With starters sitting around the £7 mark, most mains £13-£18 and desserts mostly £6.50, The Swan Inn puts itself into contention with the likes of The Old Beams, Woburn’s The Black Horse and The Swan at Salford, all of which present a more consistent and higher quality output in their food and overall dining experience, more likely to win my business as a result.

Personally, I think The Swan Inn is a little confused. Each course could have come from one of three separate restaurants, the menu or execution of each course didn’t seem to really ‘flow’ through to the next, or match the more traditional pub-setting and ambiance created by the more dated decor; perhaps the desserts, on their slates, would have been more suited to an upmarket restaurant than a dark-wood candle-lit pub? The mains had a hint of ‘traditional’ (you rarely see a chicken supreme these days) and perhaps best matched the surroundings, but some continuity and consistency across the three courses could perhaps be achieved with some work to the menu. The mains definitely could do with some focus.

I have to say, Graeme and his serving team are a huge asset to The Swan Inn and would be a reason for me to return, if the mains were perhaps given some further thought; with a welcoming nature and clear knowledge about the extensive wine list and menu, there is no doubt that the passionate human element is here in spades. It’s the execution and food itself that really matter.

Looking for a great stater? Check. A delicious pud? Look no further. But if you do visit, perhaps give the burger or steak a go instead.

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