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The White Swan (Bosham, West Sussex)

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Refurbished pub in the seaside village of Bosham that serves great food and drink

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      23.06.2012 15:45
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      A good pub on the outskirts of the pretty waterside village of Bosham in West Sussex

      I guess you could describe the White Swan as the nearest thing I have to a local. Although it's at least a mile away from my house, it's definitely the closest pub we have. I've lived in the area for getting on for 17 years and in all that time, I've been in the White Swan twice. The second time was earlier this year. The first time was many, many years ago and it was such a dive, I never went back. It was the sort of place inhabited by possessive locals and any strangers to their bar were definitely found wanting no matter who they were. With an attitude and a clientele like that, it came as no surprise that it was one of the first casualties of the credit crunch and it's doors closed rather swiftly. The White Swan remained closed, unloved and unsold for a couple of years - becoming increasingly more and more of an eye-sore as the windows got smashed in and the paint started peeling off. In 2011 rumours starting circulating in the village that the White Swan had finally been purchased. This was swiftly evidenced by the slow transformation of the outside of the building. The eye-sore was being painstakingly and expensively transformed from the Ugly Duckling it had become back into a Swan it always should have been.

      The fact that the renovation was being done so well and so tastefully inspired one to think that the new owners of the White Swan were going to make it into something special, and it definitely wouldn't be the dive beloved of a select few as it once had been. The pub reopened its doors in September last year, and reports of great food and a welcoming interior transformation quickly circulated around the village. We popped in for a meal in October, only to be greeted by a pub packed to the rafters and not a table to be found. They charmingly advised us to book next time and it was easy to see why. Thus we finally got around to a return visit earlier this year, and this time we paid heed to their advice of last October and booked a table in advance.



      ~*~ THE PUB ~*~

      The White Swan is an old coaching inn and is reckoned to be about 300 years old. Despite its age, the building is bang up to date inside and out, and has been tastefully refurbished throughout. A lot of wood has been used in the refurbishment and it looks lovely - stripped wooden floorboards, wooden tables and chairs to the restaurant area. The bar area has been done out in some lovely quarry floor tiling, lots of deep brown comfy chairs and a well lit wooden clad bar. The pub is much smaller inside than it looks from the outside and is a long L-shaped room. The bar area isn't massive, but there are a good few tables in the dining area. There are a couple of brick built fireplaces and an old bread oven left over from the days when the pub had a bakery attached. All in all the interior is comfortable, welcoming and nicely done. As a side note, the toilets deserve a special mention as they've been beautifully refurbished and rather charmingly labelled "Pens" and "Cobs" instead of Ladies and Gents.

      Sadly, the only thing that disadvantages the White Swan slightly is the lack of pub garden. Previous owners sold the pub garden off many years ago when they managed to get planning permission to erect a house on the plot. There are a couple of tables outside the White Swan, but they are inevitably used by smokers rather than diners. As the pub is on a roundabout on a busy main road, it's probably not the quietest (or healthiest) place to sit and eat lunch and the view is definitely lacking. However in their favour, the new owners of The White Swan have made the interior of their pub light, bright and comfortable enough to almost overlook the fact that there's no decent outside space.

      Despite the obvious expense of the refurbishment, the White Swan is not at all pretentious and offers the good warm welcome you should always get from a village pub (and which seems to be sadly lacking in so many pubs nowadays). It's not the sort of pub where they'll turn their nose up at someone wanting half a mild and nowt else. From what I saw, everyone received the same warm welcome whether they were just drinking or intending to dine. On the evening we visited, the pub was full to brim with both drinkers and dinners. It was Burns Night, but even so, I was rather impressed with their popularity on a cold mid-week night in late January. They're obviously doing something right.



      ~*~ THE MENU ~*~

      The White Swan offers a good selection of traditional pub grub. Their aim, they say, is to keep things simple and offer food at "off the beaten track" prices. They don't do fast food, but they "do great food as fast as they can". There is a small disclaimer on the menu stating that all the food is all homemade and it's all freshly cooked to order on the premises so you may have to wait a while during busy periods. That sort of thing is fine by me; I'd rather wait 20 minutes for something fresh rather than five minutes for a dish that arrives just after that microwave ping noise from the kitchen.

      There are a few surprises on their menu, but it's mostly what you'd expect to find on any pub blackboard or menu across the UK. So yes, there are the perennial favourites such as Scampi, Chips and Salad, Gammon, Egg and Chips or Lasagne (all at £8.90).....but there is more than a nod towards the unexpected here - anyone for Pan fried Breast of Pigeon or Thai Crab Cakes and Sweet Chilli Sauce?

      As well as the standard menu, there are a host of specials chalked up daily on the blackboard above the fireplace in both the bar and the restaurant. Similarly vegetarians are well catered for at the White Swan with several rather tasty options on offer at around the £9 mark such as Aubergine, Roasted Vegetable and Mozzarella Bake or Goats Cheese, Roasted Vegetable, Walnut and Mushroom Stack to name but two of the dishes on offer.

      Pricewise you're looking from £4.20 to £5.90 for starters with main courses ranging from a rather reasonable £8.90 up to a maximum of £17.95 for Surf & Turf (8oz Rib-eye Steak, 3 King Prawns, Homemade Onion Rings, Homemade Chips, Mushrooms and Tomatoes). Puddings are also very reasonably priced at £3.95 and the selection on offer is presented to you on a small chalked up blackboard brought to your table.

      Lighter lunches and snacks are available during the day from £5 to £8 in the form of a large range of sandwiches, soup, freshly baked and filled jacket potatoes as well as our old British favourite - the Ploughman's Lunch.



      ~*~ OUR MEAL ~*~

      When I rang and reserved the table I didn't realise it was Burns Night. However, on looking on the pub's website I realised they were doing a special Burns Night supper for £18 per person. We weren't all that keen on this menu (Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Haggis, Cranachan, Coffee and a Wee Dram), but I was worried they would assume we had booked it anyway. A quick phone call reassured us that we could choose from the "normal" menu and our fears were alleviated.

      We decided we both had appetite enough to have a starter apiece. Himself chose Breaded Whitebait with Homemade Tartare Sauce and I chose Pan fried Baby Squid with Chilli and Garlic Butter (both £5.90). My partner hadn't had whitebait for yonks (ever since the dish had made him ill through being fried in none too clean oil), but he was rather tempted to try the White Swan's version when he espied it on another diner's table. He pronounced himself very pleased with his choice as he received a good pile of the crispy tiny fishes, accompanied by a very creamy and moreish Tartare Sauce. The dish was accompanied by two slices of nutty brown bread and butter and a crispy salad garnish. My dish was just as enjoyable, yet incredibly rich. There was a goodly portion of tiny squid swimming in an extremely rich buttery sauce with so much garlic in it you could smell it a mile off! I was rather glad I had the day off work the following day otherwise the noxious garlic fumes emanating from me would have stunk out the surgery :o( The richness of the garlicky sauce was knocked back a tad by the addition of copious amounts of green chillies to the dish. The chillies gave it a bit more of a bite and tempered the richness of the sauce. My squid dish was also accompanied by two slices of the same nutty brown bread and a nice salad garnish. All in all, we were delighted with our starters - they were tasty, reasonably priced and generous of portion. We were glad of a brief respite between the removal of our starter plates and the arrival of the main event, as the starter portions were larger than expected.

      Although I was tempted by the Gammon, Egg and Chips on the main menu, I decided to stay on the seafood theme I had started with my entrée. There was a blackboard special of one of my absolute favourite dishes in the world - King Prawns in Garlic Butter. This is a dish I only ever tend to eat when we holiday in Spain, as the price of King Prawns there is so much more reasonable than it is in the UK (not to mention the freshness of the catch being more or less guaranteed there whereas it usually isn't in the UK). The King Prawns at the White Swan were priced at a most reasonable £11.95 and I was amazed by the quantity and presentation of the dish when I received it. It was definitely worth all of its £11.95 and some. I received eight good sized prawns nestling on a bed of delicious mixed salad and accompanied by a huge portion of homemade chips. They hadn't forgotten the accompaniments either as dish came with a good wedge of lemon for squeezing over the prawns, and most importantly, a finger bowl and a good pile of napkins for cleaning up afterwards. There is no way to eat King Prawns elegantly, you need to get stuck in and get your hands dirty; cutlery is no use with a dish like this! It's one of my pet hates when restaurants don't automatically provide a finger bowl and napkins with this extremely messy dish. Full marks to the White Swan for anticipation here :o) The salad under the prawns was delicious, but I am afraid that the homemade chips beat me. The portion was simply enormous and each chip so large it was like eating a medium sized jacket potato cut into chunks.

      My partner was also tempted by one of their daily blackboard specials also and he plumped for their Homemade Steak and Kidney Pie (£10.95). The pie was served with vegetables and a choice of new potatoes or chips. The pie served in its own individual pot and was topped with a lovely golden brown topping of light short crust pastry. It was absolutely chock full of chunks of beef as well as plentiful diced kidney. Like my main course, the pie was accompanied by a bowl of extremely chunky homemade chips. There was also had an individual bowl stuffed full of six different types of vegetable (carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, swede, leeks and one other I cannot recall) all freshly cooked and extremely fresh. He was thrilled with his pie, vegetables and chips - but finish it he could not. It's not often I see him unable to finish his meal, but he was beaten this time. The richness of the beef and kidney, coupled with the lovely pastry and plentiful chips made it impossible for him to clear his plate.

      Once we'd had our plates cleared away, the nice lady that served us suggested desserts. My partner flatly refused and wouldn't even countenance it. I was more easily persuaded and she returned with a small chalk blackboard, which she left on the table, no doubt thinking we'd both be tempted into making a choice. The selection wasn't huge, but from memory I recall there being a large selection of ice-creams and sorbets, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Brandy Baskets filled with Cream and Fresh Fruit and Chocolate Torte. As with all the food so far, everything was homemade (apart from the ice-creams and sorbets, which come from a local farm), and priced at a very reasonable £3.95. Our server also mentioned we could have the Burns Night dessert of Cranachan (Oatmeal, cream and Drambuie) if we so wished. In the end I chose a slice of Chocolate Torte with Cream. The Torte was a very rich chocolaty flavour and was garnished with a large strawberry. The only disappointment was the cream it came with, which was very thin and watery. However, thin and watery cream was the only single disappointment of the entire evening, so it was easy to forgive this slight transgression. All in all, our dinner was top class - good portions, extremely tasty and reasonably priced. We paid £47.65 for two starters, two main courses, one dessert and five drinks, and we felt this was excellent value for money.



      ~*~ THE DRINKS ~*~

      The White Swan is a free house (i.e. it's not tied in to any one specific brewery) and therefore offers a good range of ales, lagers and bitters from both local and further away breweries. I spotted real ales from Suthwyk Brewery, Dark Star (Hophead), Youngs (Summer Lightning), Ringwood, Langham and Hop Back. Draught lagers are Carling or Grolsch and cider is Thatchers Gold. For wine lovers there is an extensive range from around the world sold by the bottle or glass.

      We were rather boring and stuck to lager - himself had three pints of Carling at a cost of £3.00 per pint (an absolute bargain around these parts), and I stuck to two halves of lager shandy as I was driving.



      ~*~ THE SERVICE ~*~

      Having ventured in once many moons ago, and been put off immediately, we were hoping that the refurbishment of the White Swan and the new owners would have scared off that clique of unwelcoming locals that were always camped out in there ready to see off any newcomers. We need not have worried - the welcome was friendly and genuine, without a scary local in sight. We spotted at least two acquaintances that we know for a fact wouldn't have been seen dead in there under the old ownership. It seems like the White Swan has moved on now attracts a friendlier mob.

      We were served quickly and promptly at the bar, and then wandered through to the dining area to claim our pre-reserved table. The menu was already on the table, but our attention was drawn to the daily specials on the blackboard. Once we'd had a good look through the menu, our orders were taken after about ten minutes. The service was very friendly and although there was a slight delay between ordering and our food arriving (about 20 minutes) this wasn't a problem as it had already been pointed out to us that they had a large party in celebrating Burns Night. If you want your food freshly cooked to order, then you really don't mind the wait.



      ~*~ RECOMMENDATION? ~*~

      The White Swan is definitely recommended both for food or just a quick drink. The new owners have done wonders in transforming this pub from a grotty "hole" into a stylish and welcoming hostelry. The food is excellent, the portions more than generous and the prices are rather reasonable too.

      Despite the lack of garden and outside space, the refurbishment is such that you almost don't miss it - perhaps only on the sunniest of days in the summer. It's a super little pub and I'm finally proud to call it my "local". It comes with my full recommendation.



      ~*~ FURTHER DETAILS ~*~

      The pub is very easy to find as it's situated on a roundabout just as you enter the village of Bosham, next door to the Indian restaurant "Memories of India" and opposite the sports shop "Filarinskis". You'll find the pub on the main road (A259) between Chichester and Havant. The pub doesn't have any private parking, but there are usually plenty of off-road spaces to found in nearby Penwarden Way.

      The White Swan is an excellent spot for lunch or a quick drink and then an afternoon preamble around the picturesque ancient village of Bosham. Bosham is a very pretty waterside village which houses a Saxon church, a lovely craft centre and lots of quaint property overlooking the harbour. You can read all about Bosham in my review entitled "Time and tide wait for no man" at http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/
      destinations-national/bosham-village/1016963/

      The White Swan
      Station Road
      Bosham
      West Sussex
      PO18 8NG

      Telephone No: 01243-578917
      Website: http://www.thewhiteswanbosham.com
      Email: info@thewhiteswanbosham.com



      * The bar is open everyday from 12.00pm and serves drinks, teas/coffees and homemade cake all day
      * The restaurant serves lunch from 12.00pm to 2.30pm and dinner from 6.00pm to 9.00pm everyday
      * Disabled access here wouldn't be a problem and there a specifically designated disabled toilet too.

      In case you can't quite place the words in my title, they're from "The Ugly Duckling Song" - "Till a flock of swans spied him there and very soon agreed / You're a very fine swan indeed! / A swan? Me a swan? Ah, go on! / And he said yes, you're a swan"

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