Review: Nicola Warren enjoys a healthy dinner, and an indulgent dessert, at The Swan at Lavenham

The Swan at Lavenham

The Swan at Lavenham - Credit: Archant

Monday is traditionally the day when I set out with good intentions, particularly where food is concerned.

Tempura tiger prawns

Tempura tiger prawns - Credit: Archant

It was apt, then, that we’d booked to visit The Swan at Lavenham on Monday evening to try out the Brasserie menu, including some new healthy options.

It was a drizzly summer’s evening when we pulled up outside the historic building in picture-perfect Lavenham.

We were glad to get inside the warm, welcoming hotel and were met by friendly food and beverage manager John Morrell.

John was kind enough to show us around the ground floor of the hotel before we sat down to dinner.

Pear and rocket salad

Pear and rocket salad - Credit: Archant

The spacious hotel boasts the formal Gallery restaurant, housed in a sympathetically designed extension, the more laid-back Brasserie, plus the Airmen’s Bar.

The bar owes its name to the American airmen who were based near Lavenham during the Second World War.

Most Read

When you visit, look out for the preserved wall of signatures by the airmen, some of whom came back to visit the hotel earlier this year.

The newest addition to The Swan is Weavers’ House Spa, situated across the courtyard from the Brasserie.

Chocolate brownie

Chocolate brownie - Credit: Archant

It is with the spa in mind that The Swan has introduced a ‘healthy and nutritious’ section to the Brasserie menu.

Head chef Justin Kett has teamed up with Suffolk nutritionist Maggie Franks of Delicious Nutritious to offer four salads and a dessert.

With each of the salads, you can choose to add some protein to the dish – steamed sea bass fillet, lemon-grilled chicken or char-grilled halloumi.

I decided to have a light starter of tempura prawns with lemon crème fraiche and dill, followed by the new pear and rocket salad accompanied by halloumi.

Phil chose the Manor Farm Scotch egg with homemade salad cream and the char-grilled bacon steak with crispy hen’s egg and champ mash.

There were so many other options on the menu which stood out – Phil was intrigued by the starter of popcorn mussels and squid with chilli malt vinegar, while I could have quite happily tried the pea and broad bean risotto, which was available as a starter or a main.

Other main courses which appealed to us included the grilled Lowestoft plaice with mash, nutmeg spinach and prawn butter and the confit duck leg with egg noodles, pak-choi and soy and sesame dressing.

A quick note here about our server, who was very friendly and helpful and welcomed any questions, and who said we could change any accompaniments with the dishes on offer, such as mash to chips.

She offered water once she’d given us the menus, which was a nice touch. I was also offered lemon, cucumber and mint ice-water, which accompanies each of the healthy dishes.

Phil fancied a beer, so went for a pint of Peroni, though there were lots of local Adnams ales on offer as well as Aspalls cyder on the extensive drinks list.

When my tempura prawns were brought out, I immediately thought back to a traditional meal we’d eaten on holiday in Japan.

The tiger prawns were arranged to the side of the lemon crème fraiche and topped with sliced pickled gherkin and delicate micro herbs.

This visually inspiring dish was also pleasing to the palate. The perfectly cooked, succulent prawns were coated in a light, crispy tempura batter, and worked well with the gherkin, herbs and sauce.

Phil was soon waxing lyrical about his Scotch egg. The egg was served on a bed of crushed peas, with slices of Granny Smith apple, cubes of pear jelly, dots of homemade salad cream and fresh pea shoots.

The pear jelly was a welcome surprise, he said, and complimented the pork in the Scotch egg, along with the crisp apple. The yolk was perfectly runny, and in each mouthful the textures and flavours were well balanced.

All in all, the separate elements came together in an ideal combination.

Next, I was keen to try the new salad. A stack of peppery rocket and watercress was sprinkled with slices of celery and pumpkin seeds and topped with sliced pear and char-grilled halloumi. The salad was drizzled with lemon and coriander dressing.

The sweetness of the nicely ripe pear balanced out the saltiness of the halloumi well in this super-healthy dish.

The pumpkin seeds gave it a bit of bite, and the peppery taste of the rocket gave it another dimension.

Visually, though, I would have liked a bit more colour in it – it was all a bit green!

But it would be an ideal light lunch if you were enjoying a day at the newly opened spa.

Meanwhile, Phil’s eyes lit up when he saw the char-grilled bacon steak.

The succulent steak was served with champ mash – mashed potato with spring onions – plus a deep fried hen’s egg. The runny yolk oozed into the creamy mash.

Usually, Phil would ask for ketchup with something like steak, but this time he didn’t need it – the sweet carrot puree was a superior alternative.

After two courses, we were getting full, but couldn’t resist the desserts. We ordered two – the healthy dish of raw apple crumble with banana ice-cream, and the more indulgent chocolate brownie.

The healthy dessert was made up of chunks of Granny Smith apple, a crumble topping including dried berries and a scoop of banana ice cream.

Phil enjoyed the hint of cinnamon in the topping, and felt the banana ice cream brought it together, although he would have welcomed a second scoop.

The rich chocolate brownie sat in a pool of sweet caramel sauce and came with a smoky peanut butter mousse and chunks of delicious honeycomb.

It was very sweet, so I thought it could perhaps do with a scoop of ice cream to add some balance to the palate, but it was delicious!

We really enjoyed our evening at The Swan – the laidback Brasserie has plenty of character, but with some modern touches.

With friendly staff – not to mention the moreish food – we’ll definitely be back. We’ve got to try all of those other dishes!