“ Address: 14 New Row / Covent Garden / London / WC2N 4LF „
~~THE WHITE SWAN, COVENT GARDEN~~
On a bank holiday Monday in May I had been, along with my husband, son and my son's fiancée, to see my daughter's university 'Glee' choir sing in 'The Actor's Church' (St. Paul's) in Covent Garden. It was a sunny day when we went into the church and a pleasant early evening when we came out.
By the time the concert was finished we were hungry but that posed a bit of a problem. I have been to Covent Garden several times after theatre visits and it's usually difficult to find a restaurant to eat in without having previously booked or having to walk far to find somewhere suitable. We hadn't booked as we didn't know what time the concert in the church would finish.
We thought it might be a good idea to find a pub to eat in rather than a restaurant. Two of us don't eat meat (I eat fish though) and this can make it more difficult to find somewhere with a decent menu for all.
Many of the pubs were busy. Well, this popular part of London is always busy, and it was a bank holiday with some long awaited sunny weather, and so these things altogether meant that the area was especially busy. Another factor that added to the general hustle and bustle was that many of the pubs were showing a championship play-off final. People were even queuing to get into some of the pubs with crowds milling around the pavements outside.
We soon came across a pub called 'The White Swan' which is a Nicholson pub.
Apparently a pub has stood on the site of The White Swan since the late seventeenth century. The building has been a Grade two listed building since 1973.
"A fascinating past
The White Swan and narrow New Row are full of character and intrigue. No wonder Dorothy L Sayers chose the pub for a part in her Lord Peter Wimsey novel, Murder Must Advertise. The pub used to be owned by Hoare & Co, the famous London banking firm. The grand mirror on the wall still proclaims 'Hoare & Co's Celebrated Imperial Stout & Sparkling Ales'."
THE MAIN BAR
It looked to be fairly crowded but not as much so as other public houses which were showing the football and so we decided to venture inside. It was busy but as we walked through towards the rear of the pub we were surprised to find a vacant small table with two seats around it. My son and my husband found another two chairs and we squeezed into the seats around this table.
While my husband went to the bar I had a look around at this traditional old pub. It felt pleasant with lots of dark wood around and pictures on the wall.
My husband and son came back with a round of drinks. The bar seemed well stocked serving award winning real ales as well as a good choice of wines, spirits and soft drinks. While we quenched our thirsts we looked at a bar food menu, To be truthful there wasn't very much that appealed to us on this menu which mainly showed snacks. And really the table would have been too small for us to eat here and we wanted a meal rather than a snack.
On entering this pub we had noticed that the restaurant was upstairs and so my husband said that he would go upstairs to the pub's restaurant to see if there were any tables available. He soon returned, saying that he had been shown a table for four which was being held for us. We could take our drinks up.
We made our move and had to go up some very weird stairs in this old London pub. The stairs had banister rails but the treads themselves seemed to be of an uneven size which made ascending them quite strange. Later, when descending, they felt even stranger and I felt a little as if I were in 'the crooked house' at a funfair. Good job we were all sober!
The restaurant looked inviting and the aromas wafting around were rather good too. We were seated at a wooden table by one of the large windows which was already set for four. There was plenty of room at this table and we felt comfortable and began to unwind.
I really liked it in this restaurant. There were other diners around but we didn't feel cramped and I thought the restaurant had character yet wasn't formal, just a decent and smart pub restaurant in London. The service was good but friendly rather than overly fussy.
We already had our drinks but waiting staff soon came over to give us each a menu and asked did we want anymore drinks.
Looking and listening and being rather nosy, I admit, I thought that other customers of the pub at this time were quite mixed. There were families and some were obviously tourists but at small tables here and there could be seen a few single diners who, to me (perhaps being over imaginative!) looked like actors or playwrights. One distinguished looking gentleman in particular, wearing a hat (bit rude at the table in some people's opinion, perhaps!) seemed to have finished his lunch and was now having a very leisurely drink which I thought was coffee while he read his book at the same time.
There isn't a separate vegetarian section on the menu but there are veggie choices throughout the menu and these are clearly marked. I quite like a menu that has vegetarian options interspersed with omnivore choices as this doesn't make me feel so unusual or an afterthought in menu terms. I think as long as veggie options are clearly marked (which they were) then it is acceptable to see a veggie burger placed with meat burgers and the same with an aubergine pie being shown alongside meat pies. I think this is also a good idea from the pubs point of view as when entered in this way I feel that meat eaters are more likely to try a meat-free option if it isn't placed under a vegetarian section which can make some people more likely to steer clear.
I thought that there were several interesting looking veggie options such as the 'Spinach and ricotta Strudel' which is creamed spinach and ricotta cheese wrapped in crispy filo pastry, served with salad and English herb and garlic mayonnaise, priced at £ 9.95.
We all agreed that the menu in The White Swan was quite impressive for a pub.
Breakfast is served earlier in the day and so are snacks. One can choose to have a snack, main meal or two or three courses.
There were several very tempting fish dishes on the menu such as salmon and sea bass.
The main menu offers starters and sharing platters, sides, sandwiches and some tempting sounding desserts. Anyone fancy key lime tart?
Ribeye (£15.95) and fillet (£ 19.95) steaks are to be seen on the main menu.
The White swan offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu as well as a Sunday menu.
I was impressed with the look of the menu, in fact we all were. I really wasn't sure what to have and I swayed between choosing the sea bass or the fish pie.
I finally decided on the fish pie. This consists of smoked haddock in a cheddar and spinach sauce, with a poached egg inside. This is topped with mashed potato and served with whole green beans. This was priced at £10.25. The fish pie was served in a round dish and was bubbling. It was nicely browned on the top but I couldn't see a poached egg...until I cut into the pie and found the egg. I enjoyed my meal. Really, for taste and quality I couldn't fault it but I thought the meal wasn't big enough. If I had known then I would have chosen a side dish to accompany the pie. I think this option should be served with more than just the green beans.
My husband decided fairly quickly on the line-caught battered (in Nicholson's ale) cod fillet with chips (skin on) with mushy peas and tartare sauce. This cost £11.75. My husband (who can be fussy) said that the chips and the fish were delicious and he gave me some to try. I agreed with him!
My son kept changing his mind. Should he have a chicken dish or steak? He decided to choose from the Nicholson's classic section of the menu and opted for the Steak Frites (thin-cut rib eye steak served with chips (skin on) garlic butter and a tomato (and a side order of onion rings). This cost £9.95 and £2.50 for the onion rings. He thoroughly enjoyed his meal although he is fairly easy to please!
My daughter-in-law-to-be chose a veggie burger served on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise with chips (skin on). This cost £9.50. All of the burgers, according to the menu, are served on a toasted bun with crisp lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise with skin on chips. I was told that this meal was tasty.
All portions, apart from my fish pie were adequate. The fish pie was delicious but not filling enough. Had I known what to expect then I would have ordered a side dish as an accompaniment. My husband handed over a few of his chips and although I wasn't full at least I felt comfortable.
Everyone enjoyed their meal.
We each had another drink. These were: two pints of Becks lager, a J20 and a vodka and lemonade.
The desserts looked good but we decided not to stay for these as we wanted to have a walk around Covent Garden and not be too late returning home.
The cost of the meal including one round of drinks was £54.74 which I think is a good price for a well cooked meal eaten in pleasant surroundings and with friendly service.
Altogether we were attended to by three different members of staff thought out our meal. All of these were very polite and attentive without being too intrusive. You could tell that politeness service had been instilled into the staff that we met at this pub restaurant.
We felt that food was served in good time and all meals arrived together.
When we asked for the bill it was brought to our table promptly.
We were thanked for our custom on leaving.
I feel that wheelchair access to the pub itself is possible although it does get busy and therefore crowded. As for the restaurant this is up some difficult stairs and not the easiest to ascend or descend for those with mobility difficulties.
Due to the age of the pub and as it is a listed building, I would think adaptations to the upstairs might be difficult but this is just my opinion.
Further winding stairs lead to toilets upstairs. These are clean and well equipped.
There are further toilets downstairs in the pub area.
FOOD SERVING TIMES
Monday to Saturday: 10:00 - 22:00
Sunday: 12:00 - 22:00
Monday to Thursday: 10:00 - 23:00
Friday to Saturday: 10:00 - 23:30
Sunday: 12:00 - 22:30
14 New Row,
Telephone: 0203 077 1129
We all agreed that we had made a good choice with The White Swan and if we are in the area of Covent Garden again soon, which is quite possibel, and we want to eat out then we would be quite likely to eat here again.
Even if a meal isn't required we would be pleased to have a drink in The White Swan public house.