Winter warmer

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 January 2015

Basil roast rump of lamb

Basil roast rump of lamb

Archant 2014

With award-winning chef Daniel Smith at its helm, The Ingham Swan is a must-visit restaurant on Norfolk's culinary map, writes Rachel Buller.

Warm treacle tart, with lemon curd and lemon ice creamWarm treacle tart, with lemon curd and lemon ice cream

The Ingham Swan has been transformed in recent years from village local to an award-winning, food lover’s heaven with an ever-growing reputation extending way beyond the county’s borders.

Surrounded by fields and in the shadow of the imposing church tower next door, it is very much the perfect picture of idyllic Norfolk country life. As we drive through country lanes to Ingham, near Stalham in the Norfolk Broads, an eerie mist hangs over the fields and the first chills of winter are very much in the air – so when we are ushered to our table by the blazing fire it is a welcome sight.

The menu at the Swan changes daily depending on what ingredients chef patron Daniel Smith has available and what is in season. For a starter, I chose the assiette of seafood with warm smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, fine prawn cocktail, mackerel pate, crispy calamari and Montgomery fish cake at £9.50.

Envisaging a “fine dining” style portion, it was a surprise to see a very full plate – enough to share. The warm smoked salmon was bursting with deep smoky flavour, and the prawns and mackerel were deliciously simple. Most praise though goes to the flavoursome little Montgomery fish cake; I could have eaten more.

Food review at The Ingham Swan.Food review at The Ingham Swan.

My husband chose sea salt crackling belly pork with seared hand dived scallops, apple puree and pea shoots (£9.50). The combination of the oh so tender scallops and the crunchy, salty pork was mouth-watering and the sweet apple cut through the richness of the meat.

The main courses all sounded rather seductive on what was a chilly night – none more so than the pan roast Holkham venison loin with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, caramelised butternut squash, sautéed shallot cabbage, fondant potato and red wine jus (£22.50). It was rich, warming and tasted like winter on a plate, the venison perfectly pink and tender. The basil roast rump of Essex lamb, confit beetroot, baked red onion, tender stem broccoli, potatoes and basil jus (£21.50) was equally delicious and had a real, traditional hearty feel about it.

The former coaching inn has a rich history and has stood in the village for some 600 years. With its flint walls, old beams and floorboards, coupled with the roaring fire, it is everything that you would expect from a proper English pub.

I had been told by many friends to make sure I saved room for one of the Swan’s desserts so I duly obliged, going for the warm treacle tart. Served with lemon curd and lemon ice cream, it was possibly one of the nicest desserts I have even eaten. The gooey, melt-in-the-mouth treacle nestled in its crispy pastry case was heavenly and the sweetness was matched by the gentle sharpness of the lemon. Not an obvious combination, but an amazing one.

Meet the chef

The Ingham Swan’s chef patron Daniel Smith won Chef of the Year, sponsored by City College Norwich, at this year’s EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards in association with the East of England Co-Op.

Daniel started as a kitchen hand at the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth before training at the two Michelin Star Le Gavroche in London, then returning to Norfolk and where he was head chef at the Michelin starred Morston Hall.

“I serve food that I like to eat and can stand by. I am keen to uphold my Norfolk roots so try to use the finest produce from independent local suppliers wherever possible and at The Ingham Swan we make everything in-house,” he says.

Since taking over at The Swan, Daniel and business partner Gregory Adjemian, have won many accolades, including a Michelin Bib Gourmand for the past three years and two AA rosettes.

Expect to pay:

Starters from £6.95

Mains from £17.50 (£14.50 vegetarian)

Desserts from £6.95

Seven-course taster menu £47.50 (£39.50 vegetarian)

Set dinner menu: Two courses, £20.95; three courses £26.95.

Christmas tasting menu: £37.50

The Ingham Swan, Sea Palling Road, Ingham, NR12 9AB; 01692 581099; www.theinghamswan.co.uk

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