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The Black Swan

A welcoming new gastropub near the M25-A3 junction

Known to locals as the Mucky Duck, the Black Swan used to be a real hairy bikers' pub. It was recently acquired by Geronimo Inns who must have spent an absolute fortune on the most amazing and imaginative transformation. Nothing has been left unconsidered, from the gardens to the decor and furnishings and most importantly, the state-of-the-art kitchens, presided over by  Mark Blatchford, formerly head chef of Toast in Hampstead and SoHo House, New York.  There is a good sized bar area and the emphasis is on comfort with big sofas for lounging around.

Blatchford is a keen advocate of local produce and I was delighted to find that his meat comes from my favourite Surrey butchers,  Conisbee, who farm their own herd of Sussex breed cattle as well as sheep on the nearby Polesden Lacey estate. Blatchford is clearly a keen exponent of the art of garde manger, as everyday the kitchen makes up Kilner Jars filled, for example, with potted salmon or potted ham, served with a sharp home made piccalilli. There are also smaller so-called 'deli-jars' with tempting spreads such as brandade of cod, or chicken liver parfait which are served all day with wedges of fresh home baked bread for an amazing  £2.00!! The lunch menu hovers between lighter dishes like Eggs Benedict, trad British dishes like Shepherds' Pie, and must haves imported from the main dinner menu. Their fish and chips is already becoming legendary, particularly on account of the 'cyder batter' and the pea purée.

We had a most enjoyable dinner the other night and came away excited at the prospect of many return visits - can't wait to try Sunday lunch!. The starter of jellied ham hock  was yet another example of garde manger skill, a lovely marbled effect making the presentation visibly effective. The glazed leek and wild mushroom tart was notable for its most delicious short pastry, but I remained unconvinced that the filling had really been cooked off properly. Even so, the flavours were excellent.

The main course rack of lamb was pink and tender under a crispy herb crust and the boulangère potatoes demonstrated the kitchen's depth of proper culinary practice. The veggie dish was cannelloni filled with butternut squash gratinated with goat's cheese. Even a sprinkling of pine nuts could not conceal a want of variety, particularly of texture - the dish was much of a muchness. I'm probably being ultra hard on this because everything else was so darn good! Roast cod came with big succulent flakes and just crunchy puy lentils. Incidentally, all the garnishes were well chosen and added to the unfussy visual impact of their respective dishes. Conisbee's 28 day hung rump steak was full of flavour and the chips were really superb - what a difference to a dish really good ones make! The Béarnaise sauce was another triumph of mainstream culinary skill, not lost out here in the Surrey sticks.

If you have room left, don't miss out on the voluptuous Hot Fudge Sundae - deep chocolate and toffee, warm mouthfuls vying with cold ice cream - delicious! The Frangipane Tart was a bit dull - needed more sharply defined almond flavours - but underneath its crisp topping the Crème Brûlée was  smooth and rich. From an expertly conceived wine list, we drank several bottles of a very nice Chablis, reasonably priced at £21.00, and a bottle of Argentine Malbec that partnered my steak brilliantly. Service was friendly and efficient and there was no shortage of willing staff.

The Black Swan at Ockham, wins a Dine Online Award
Old Lane, Ockham, Surrey KT11 1NG
T: 01932 862364  W:

A la carte dinner served 6.30 - 9.30pm. Prices: Starters £4.50 - ££8.50; Mains £10.50 - £17.50; Sides £3.00; Puds £5.00
Lunch available 12 - 3.00pm. Brunch and Bar Snacks at appropriate times!
See their website for details including Sunday roasts (Conisbee's topside of beef).

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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