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The White Swan (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of The White Swan in City of London, London

108 Fetter Lane, City of London, London, EC4A 1ES
Cuisine: Modern European Average Price: £30.00
Tel: 020 7242 9696 | Email to The White Swan | Transport: Chancery Lane | Write review

The White Swan Review

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Best for: after work drinks and dinner, escaping the winter, socialising.

Great: gastropub food, diversity, service.

Snow is often the name given to a powerful nervous system stimulant that increases alertness, feelings of well-being, energy, euphoria, competence and sexuality. Apparently. In contrast, the snow that falls from the sky conversely decreases my alertness, my general feeling of well-being and euphoria, and diminishes any shred of energy, competence or sexuality I might have. Definitely. When it’s that cold, the clothes stay on.

So, it’s a Wednesday, the first day of December, and my face has been assaulted by the legal powdery white substance. I’m shivering, mainly because my flimsy layers - the result of youthful poverty - are not fulfilling their task of cumulative warmth. The coffee I hold between gloved hands is iced. A private ritual that I hope will expedite a change of seasons.

And I’m hungry. Hours earlier, I had personally vetoed all my dreary breakfast options – a bowl containing an onion, a bowl containing a sweet potato, a bowl containing nothing – mumbling ‘screw it, I’m going to law school’.

Instead of allowing the reality of my dismal day to saturate, I instead allow the snow to do so, only raising my chin from my chest after I enter The White Swan, just off Chancery Lane.

My criteria for music is that it needs to be catchy. A useful test: could this song lull a crazy person into a benevolent trance? My criteria for art is that it needs to be stimulating. A useful test: could looking at this art create new neural pathways in a baby’s brain? My criteria for a gastropub is more complex: there must be an atmosphere, there must be character, there must be people who must be happy, and there must be good food.

The White Swan is forever now the archetype of my gastropub ideal. It ticks all the boxes, and there are an awful lot of boxes. The ground floor and first floor are bar areas - dedicated to housing hard worked Londoners and sheltering them in a comfort which usually only home can offer - while the third floor is host to the restaurant. The two floors I ascend are very much your quintessential English pub filled with charm and charmers, but the restaurant has a calm, elegant feel to it.

Wooden floors, white tablecloths and sparkling wine glasses; it’s fancy. A glance in the mirrored ceiling signals that perhaps it’s too fancy for me. I remove my winter coat, covered in unavoidable filth, and allow the host to take my scarf, which tacit knowledge tells me is really just a glorified sweat rag. Not one crease forms on her face. The staff are effortlessly polite, no matter what your breed.

Nay bother, included on my list to Santa this year is one of those scarves woven from the chin hair of a Cashmere goat that is so fine it can fit through a wedding ring. And so, to dinner. Roast West Coast Plaice with creamed potato, butternut squash and fondant shallots for me; fillet of Cornish Seabass, roast pear, salsify and dolce forte sauce for my friend. Talking subsided for 15 minutes, then a further five to savour the Italian Pinot Grigio. I’m a fairly (ok, very) vocal person and so for me to recede into a state of muteness is high praise for the chefs at The White Swan. The fish was cooked to perfection, eating it was like recalling the poetic Mediterranean youth I never had; a gathered family, alfresco dinners, a warm breeze carrying on its drift the sound of a nearby harbour, the smell of salt water and the taste of a day’s labour. Escaping, if only for 15 minutes, was delightfully indulgent.

Rejoining the rest of the restaurant in dinnertime chatter, we play a new parlour game, choosing five people, living or dead, who we would follow on Twitter and the reason why (the dinner party version is so 20th century). My list consisted of:

- Fran Lebowitz (for the snark)
- Theodor Adorno (because he would like it)
- Henry James (because he would hate it)
- Bartleby (for the existential redundancy)
- Diana Vreeland (for the passive-aggressive imperatives)

Dessert again breaks the conversation; steamed chocolate pudding with chocolate sorbet, and a bread & butter pudding with orange marmalade ice-cream that would have my Nan tearing up her secret family recipe and renouncing her own mother.

The miracle of the human sensory system is that we have no physical memory. If our skin is warm that is simply how it feels, it cannot feel cold. We can conjure old emotions and remember how it felt, but luckily we are unable to actually summon our corporal past into a reality. Thus, after warming up during a thoroughly enjoyable few hours, re-entering the bitterly cold streets came as a shock to my body. It took all of my might not to turn on my heels and take up permanent residence at The White Swan, hibernating until spring when I can again be well due to my environment, not despite of it. Thinking about it, though, suspending consciousness would not be an option; I would only want to eat and drink and be merry in what is a perfect gastropub. Continuing forward, an epiphany hits: The White Swan merely existing has me believing winter isn’t so bad. And with that thought, I felt all warm inside. more

Customer Reviews for The White Swan

Average (based on 3 votes): 3 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of The White Swan.

“I loved this pub/restaurant on Fetter Lane! Work in Holborn so this is the perfect place for post work boozing! It is very friendly and cosy, I feel right at home whenever I visit! Have eaten in the upstairs dining area a few times too, great food and wine and service. Not one bad thing to say about this Central London gastro pub!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Grace Tyrer Smith, Lambeth (10 years 4 months 5 days ago)

“Great food in this hidden gem in the City!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Laura Jarvis, London (14 years 2 months 28 days ago)

“Fish and chips to die for. Attentiev table service. Busy but not too cramped at lunch time. A great alternative to the bland offerings nearby. Hightly recommended.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Steve Molesworth, London (14 years 3 months ago)

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Truffle infused mozzarella with rocket and tomato tartare

Roast duck breast with smoked black pudding and apple

Updated 11/04/2006

Additional Information

  • Cuisine Type: Modern European
  • Average Price: £30.00
  • Dress Code: Not Specified
  • Group: ETM Group

The White Swan Hire Details

The venue’s three floors can be hired exclusively for bespoke private parties and weddings at weekends accommodating approximately 150. Alternatively, the dining room is available for private hire is ideal for business and celebratory dinners, seating up to 42 people each.

Updated 11/04/2006

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Venue ID: 18406

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