Restaurant review: The Ingham Swan

PUBLISHED: 10:24 18 July 2017

The Ingham Swan (photo: Angela Sharpe)

The Ingham Swan (photo: Angela Sharpe)

Archant 2014

A lunch-de-jour at the Ingham Swan becomes a journey focusing on a fine, fun, creative and celebratory meal, writes Rowan Mantell

The Ingham Swan (photo: P J Bayfield)The Ingham Swan (photo: P J Bayfield)

It began with truffle popcorn and continued with slices of saffron pickled pear, a chunk of salmon flavoured with lemon gel and herb emulsion, cubes of parmesan polenta and earthy beetroot, slivers of smoked and succulent artichoke, dense lamb liver, a froth of mousse, a pudding of peaches, crème fraiche ripple ice cream, raspberry cream, gold leaf and a champagne and peach foam bellini. Finally it ended with two espressos with marvellously not-so-petit petits fours, quivering cubes of jelly with all the sharp-sweet taste of their fruity origins, and heavenly macarons enclosing a paste of nuts and cream and more Ingham Swan magic.

Our lunch was an adventure through the courses, with a pre-starter, amuse bouche and pre-pudding taking us on unexpected excursions from the main lunch-de-jour menu.

Indeed, we were so captivated that towards the end, instead of sticking to the set menu desserts we veered off to the a la carte and returned with a pudding created for Her Majesty and including a cocktail, and another which involved chocolate and coffee ice creams, a shard of chocolate and an espresso (the bargain of the meal at just £3.75.)

This was our first visit to the Ingham Swan, so was an adventure in itself. We had cycled out, posh clothes in panniers, ready to change from freewheeling along quiet lanes to fine dining in a very fine restaurant.

Eating at the Ingham Swan (photo: P J Bayfield)Eating at the Ingham Swan (photo: P J Bayfield)

Knowing the food would be worth the journey, it became the focus of the whole day, an outward ride of anticipation through a succession of green-fronded lanes, and a replete return, via a drift of Broadland staithes.

But back to the main course of our day, lunch at the Ingham Swan, a real treat.

The thatched inn is next to the ancient village church. There is a tucked-away terrace-style garden with luxurious-looking seating which would have been ideal for an alfresco meal at a restaurant which prides itself on the local provenance of much of its menu. It even has its own farm field, but as we arrived a sea-fret was billowing across the countryside. So we went indoors and settled for much more flavoursome light-as-air foams and froths, enhancing a fabulously foodie menu.

This ancient inn has been turned into a bar and restaurant which is both comfortable and stylish with exposed stonework, bricks and beams, softened by circular tables, padded dining chairs, a nook with a sofa and low table, wide window sills transformed into seats.

Fish on a bed of samphire (photo: P J Bayfield)Fish on a bed of samphire (photo: P J Bayfield)

The menu ranges from informal to aristocratic, from fish and chips for £13.50 (actually Wherry beer battered fish and Ingham chips with charred lemon, a cucumber salad and caper mayonnaise) to the tasting menu of many courses, each with many ingredients cooked in many ways, with many matched wines.

We chose the lunch de jour menu, thinking we were limiting ourselves to a mere three courses, but were delighted to discover the flourishes of the posher menus flavour everything.

I thought I would start with smooth chicken liver parfait, saffron pickled pear, celeriac, house toast; my husband chose smoked salmon with salmon salsa, spiral potato, asparagus, lemon gel and herb emulsion. But even before the starter came truffle popcorn and diminutive, delicate fresh-baked bread rolls. And after the starter an amuse bouche of soup in a tiny pot, as if our taste-buds had not been amused enough. My parfait was mousse-like, the celeriac served as a melting mound of soft strands.

My main course came as a series of tiny cubes, of parmesan polenta, swede, beetroot, served with dainty halves of artichoke, plus walnuts and rocket and apple. The polenta was probably the least interesting part of the meal, but soaked up the flavours all around it. Pudding is where we veered off the lunch-de-jour menu, me straight for the priciest pudding of all, inspired by Her Majesty herself, Howard for the cheapest, inspired by his love of chocolate, coffee, ice cream and jus de value for money. Obviously it wasn’t any old chocolate, coffee and ice cream, but white chocolate affogato, salted caramel ice cream with white chocolate shards and a single espresso, presented like a work of art.

Coffee panna cotta (photo: Megan Duffield)Coffee panna cotta (photo: Megan Duffield)

My modern peach melba came with a sparkling peach foam bellini and was from the homage to the Queen and other great Britons, created by Ingham Swan chef patron, Daniel Smith for televison’s the Great British Menu.

Apparently the Queen loves a peach and served with cream, ice cream and a peach bellini with local Winbirri champagne, everything was more peachy than ever.

The Ingham Swan is a place for special occasions and celebrations, but such is the standard of the meals created that simply eating here creates its own occasion, a celebration of ingredients chosen, combined, cooked and served with flair.

Warm Ingham Treacle Tart (photo: Angela Sharpe)Warm Ingham Treacle Tart (photo: Angela Sharpe)

Expect to pay

Lunch du jour

Two courses £17.50,

Three courses £22.50.

Sweet treats (photo: Megan Duffield)Sweet treats (photo: Megan Duffield)

The Ingham Swan, Sea Palling Road, Ingham, near Stalham, NR12 9AB. 01692 581099.

Open for lunch 12-2pm (Sundays 12-3pm) and dinner 7-9pm.

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