Food review: “Really decent pub food with a few surprises.”
- Credit: Archant
Is it possible to have a slap-up authentic pub dinner in the comforts of your own home? STUART ANDERSON tried a takeaway menu at the Black Swan Inn at Horsham St Faith to find out.
Pub meals in the Norfolk countryside have never been just about the food. It’s also about going to a (usually) beautiful, historic building brimming with atmosphere where good vibes and conversation are every bit as much on tap as the ale.
Many of us have missed this during the lockdown and it’s surely something we’ll never take for granted again.
And even though most pubs are now re-open for inside trade, many are continuing to offer the takeaway menu they’ve launched in recent months to give customers a bit of extra flexibility.
One of them is the Black Swan Inn at Horsham St Faith, and I wanted to see if what their kitchen had to offer worked just as well at home as if I was sitting in the pub itself.
Becca and I wanted a decent-sized meal to give a sense of occasion, so for starters we ordered three dishes from the tapas menu (£12 or £4.50 each) - spiced pork meatballs, poached pear salad and salt-and-pepper calamari.
The calamari was breaded, crispy and salty, and came with a pot of saffron aioli, which was perfect for dipping.
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The salad was pretty good as well - pears don’t get used much in modern-day pub food so this was a departure from the norm. They came on a bed of rocket and toasted walnuts and dairy-free cheese - it’s usually served with Binham Blue but this was the vegan version.
But for me it was the meatballs that stood out.
They were each about the size of a small scotch egg, richly herbed and breaded. They came with an apple sauce which I tried with the first one, but found unnecessary so left it for the rest. The meatballs were flavoursome enough on their own.
I went for the 10oz sirloin steak (£20.95) for my main.
This came in its own box with a couple of onion rings, flat field mushrooms and a tomato. Also part of the meal was a separate box full of hand cut chips (you can get fries or potatoes as an alternative) and another tray of seasonal veggies.
The quantities of the sides were enormous, and I can’t believe they would give you so much if you were sitting down to the same meal in the pub itself - they’d need a couple of plates to fit it all in. The steak - which I ordered medium - was perfectly cooked, just a hint of pink in the middle and wonderfully tender. When I saw the steak in the box the portion didn’t seem huge, but it helped to fill me up nicely. The tomato was bursting with tanginess.
Becca went for the sweet potato burger (£12.95) for her main. This was served in a brioche bun with onion, lettuce and tomato.
The burger itself included barley and walnuts and tasted fine, although probably could have done with a minute in the microwave once I’d got home as it didn’t seem to hold its heat as well as my steak did.
She got some garden peas with it and an extra order of onion rings (£3) from the additional sides section of the menu.
Combined with some of my chips the whole ensemble looked really good when plated up and I’ve got to say she did a much better job of that than my effort with the steak.
The Black Swan also had desserts on offer but we didn’t order any. It turned out to be a wise decision as I was full as a bull by the end of this meal and there were still plenty of chips and vegetables left over.
We placed our order by phone (you can also email them and their website says they’re working on an online ordering system) and I drove over to Horsham to collect. This was before pubs were allowing visitors back inside, and there was plenty of parking both at the back of the building.
There were no queues and the food was waiting for me when I got there, and I paid (contactless) at the kiosk set up in one of the rooms.
It was speedy and friendly service, and I got the feeling the staff were very much looking forward to welcoming people back inside in the ‘old fashioned’ way!’
The food smelt delicious, making me ever more hungry on the drive home, where we quickly got the table set up and laid everything out.
It all came in individual cardboard or foil containers and emerged from transit remarkably well, although a couple of the onion rings in the steak box were a bit on the soggy side.
The total bill for three tapas, two mains and an extra side came to £48.90.
You may think that’s a lot for a takeaway meal for two, but to be fair a good chunk of it was my steak at just over £20.
It was also far more than we could eat, so next time I think I’ll skip the tapas and maybe just get a small starter before the main event. In all, this was a well-priced meal for the quality of the food.
The pork meatballs stood out for me as I can’t recall ever having eaten anything quite like them before.
Add a couple more, grate some cheddar over the top and stick a few chips around the edges and this would make a brilliant main dish.
I’d also like to try one of those sweet potato burgers again as the patty itself looked delicious, but will try it fresh off the grill next time.
Really decent pub food with a few surprises. Now that it’s open again for sit-in guests I’d certainly like to go back for the ‘full’ dining experience, and sneak in a dessert as well.
But it’s good to know they’re still doing takeaways as there are still people who are staying at home for shielding reasons or just prefer the convenience of it.
• Three things to try
Spiced pork meatballs (£4.50)
10oz sirloin steak (£20.95)
Sweet potato burger (£12.95)
• If you liked that, try these
-Marsham Arms, Marsham
Famed for its steak aged in Himalayan salt chambers, they are offering a 10pc discount on takeaways and are back serving lunch and dinner inside the pub itself.
-Black Boys, Aylsham
This historic pub has opened a new beer garden at the back and has an extensive takeaway menu, which includes roast beef boxes for four for £50.
-The Fox Steakhouse and Grill, Hevingham
Smoked tasting boards and Sunday lunches are among the highlights at this popular venue between Norwich and Aylsham.
For more information, visit www.blackswaninn.co.uk
*Our food reviews are always independent. They are the opinion of the reviewer based on their experience of the venue when they visited.
The establishment is not aware of our visit, is not informed we intend to write a review and bills are paid by the reviewer.
The choice of places reviewed is also independent and is not based on venues which do or do not advertise in our publications.