I was lucky enough to have attended last year’s Sussex Food night at The Swan Hotel.
At the time, I remember being excited by the way (then) new landlady Beata Slapikaite was pushing food to the forefront in a venue that traditionally had been a little… er… ‘hit and miss’, and by her commitment to sourcing local producers and showcasing seasonal produce.
A year later and that hasn’t changed one bit. Park Farm, Slindon Bakery, Arundel Butchers, Sussex Cheeseman, Pallant of Arundel – all suppliers reassuringly still present and correct. What HAS changed is The Swan itself – a MASSIVE refurb, carried out throughout the whole bar, restaurant and hotel. And tonight – completely sold out- is a brilliant showcase for it; with some tasters at table and others served buffet-style in the formal restaurant area, we’re all mingling and chatting and admiring and pointing out quirky features and cooing over the decor and the smart tableware and the funky staff uniforms and the way the place is completely and utterly and magically transformed.
But the star of the show is the food. One of the highlights of the evening is having the chefs on hand to answer questions. ‘What’s the coating on the goat’s cheese?’ I ask. ‘Oh, it’s rolled in an ash made of home-roasted pepper skins – that was my idea’ I’m proudly told. And it’s a good one, amongst many.
Deli-style bits and bobs come accompanied by a creamy humous with a surprising hint of cinnamon. It works. Mini-tasters of the upcoming winter menu include a hearty split pea and bacon broth, celeriac and blue cheese rosti, a scrummy rarebit and crumbly feta cakes; mains include a melt-in-the-mouth pork belly with crispy kale, and baked salmon accompanied by a stunning pearl barley risotto. Add an assiette of dainty puds, a mountain of Sussex cheeses, a stunning array of breads and dinky home-made Viennese whirls, and we’re seriously spoiled for choice. ‘Full as a boot’ as the old saying goes.
From being seriously impressed by this event last year, I was completely blown away this year. The Swan as a restaurant is seriously at the top of its game at the minute. Long may it continue!
For restaurant bookings, ring 01903 882 314. Christmas reservations now being taken!