For over one year now I have been assaulting your eyes with my dreadful photography skills and poorly punctuated sentences on this restaurant blog. That’s twelve months of self-confirmation for what a sanctimonious twat I can be, demonstrated repeatedly over forty-odd meals. Nothings changed, aside from the odd invitation to abuse a free bar from a PR company that have clearly never read my rumblings. I’m still always hungry. Still always grumpy. And I still haven’t managed to organise my life well enough to make bookings in advance. Its a miserable Sunday in July, pissing down with rain outside, and we are supposed to be going to going out for food in two hours. I am scrambling around trying to find anywhere that will still be serving a Sunday lunch at half four in the afternoon. Everywhere is fully booked or closing. Finally, a result: The White Swan can fit us in. We weigh up whether or not we should go – we have eaten here a couple of times; once was very good, another lunch on Christmas day was a disaster. We go. Of course we did, otherwise this post would be a low point, even by my standards.
Inside The White Swan looks exactly how a gastropub on the border of Edgbaston and Harborne should: Its all soft furnishings, pale wood and neutral colours. The staff, neatly uniformed, are standoffish and unobtrusive. The menu is British, with the occasional nod to sunnier climes. We start with one of these excursions, which would be the best thing that we ate all day. A mezze with creamy tzatziki, a harrisa spiked hummus, and a smokey baba ghanoush, all mopped up with flat breads scented with garlic . Best of all were slices of aubergine, coated in blitzed chickpeas and deep fried to a crisp, which begged to be dredged through the last of the tzatziki.
A confit duck leg would frustrate. The meat, simmered in fat until falling away from the bone, could have only been improved by the skin being crisped up more after its lengthy cook. Its accompaniments were a collection of ingredients that each work with duck, without any thought of them working together. A waffle, some thick batons of sweet potato, unintentionally raw hispi cabbage, and a slice of pineapple. Take any two of those with the poultry and you have a dish. All four is just a mess. A vegetarian nut roast was nothing more than a comforting dollop of parsnip and cranberry stuffing, served with a overcooked Yorkshire pudding and veg which veered from well made roasties to more of the raw cabbage.
If the mains failed to deliver, dessert very nearly salvaged it. A well made sticky toffee pudding, to its credit much lighter than it looked, was beaten hands down by a salted caramel chocolate pot. The ganache, bordering on a coffee flavour such was its depth, further soured by creme fraiche with the clever addition of candied lemon peel. It would have been nice to dunk the advertised biscuits into this, though they materialised in the form of crumbs which remained firmly on the slate with a raspberry coulis that added very little other than presentation.
The pricing here is in line with its local competition – mains start early teens and rise to a tenner above – so consider around thirty quid a head for three courses before you start looking to a fairly priced wine list. Its hard to consider this value based on what we ate, even more so when compared to what you can find for the same price close by. And herein lies the problem with The White Swan; with The Plough half a mile down the road and The Highfield another half a mile the other way, competition could not be more fierce. With those close by, we just cant see a time when we would ever bother risking it and going back.