Eating out: The Barnby Swan

The Barnby Swan is the place for all fish great and small, says Sarah Brealey

The Barnby Swan is the place for all fish great and small, says Sarah Brealey

Fish and chips has moved from traditional supper to ethical minefield, with celebrity chefs taking to our television screens to tell us about the problems with fishing and which fish we should be eating.

The clich� ‘Plenty more fish in the sea’ is perhaps not as true as it once seemed.

So I set off for the Barnby Swan, near Lowestoft, a pub renowned for the scaly stuff and owned by fish merchants Donny and Michael Cole. Here at least there is fish with some provenance, and I hoped, a broad enough menu to cover guilt-free varieties.

The menu is indeed broad. An array of specials covers all kinds of fish cooked in all kinds of ways. We tried to remember, not entirely successfully, which kinds we should be eating. We could have had lemon sole or mackerel, herring, crab or mussels, with a fairly clear conscience, though there are other – very popular – offerings such as cod and turbot which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall might tut-tut at.

The Swan is deservedly popular – you need to book well in advance at weekends, and even early in the week is bustling. There is something to keep most people happy – mackerel or goujons of halibut for under �10, or you can push the boat out with lobster or perhaps turbot with prawns and cheese sauce and spend nearer to �20. Portions are generous – if you order deep-fried lemon sole, for example, you will get two fillets rather than one. If you really don’t like fish, there are steaks and a few other meat dishes, and a couple of vegetarian options.

Most Read

Starters arrived briskly – fried herring milts for the other half, and deep-fried brie wedges for me. Milts, also known as soft roes, are the male fish’s equivalent of roes – or as the other half charmingly put it, ‘a bit like eating a fish’s prostate gland’. Luckily he is not squeamish, and pronounced the milts very tasty, with a rich flavour and a soft texture, somewhere between liver and pate. My brie could not really compete with this on the excitement front, but went nicely with the cranberry sauce.

Moving on to main courses, the other half had the skate wing coated in breadcrumbs. It was an impressive piece of fish that nearly covered the (large) plate. The menu also offered the more classic skate with black butter, and with hindsight he thought it might have been a better option – the crispy breadcrumbs formed slightly too much of a barrier to the delicate fish below, though it was still a very tasty dish.

My moules mariniere came in an impressive lidded copper pot that was almost a cauldron. The mussels, too, were impressive – large, very juicy and in a classic sauce flavoured with white wine, garlic and onion, though mostly it sang of the salty sea-tang of the shellfish themselves.

The Swan does a number of traditional desserts, but as far as I am concerned it is all about their ice-cream sundaes. We shared the raspberry ripple version, which came in a towering glass. It was childishly extravagant – ice-cream layered with raspberries and sauce, bits of meringue and the whole thing topped with a mini-tower of whipped cream, wafers and chocolate flakes.

The Swan offers several real ales as well as a decent wine list. The other half tried Trawlerboys, a local brew from Green Jack brewery in Lowestoft, which was a fine pint.

Whether or not you are interested in saving the world’s fish stocks, the Barnby Swan has much to offer. Just take a hearty appetite with you.

Swan Inn, Swan Lane, Barnby

Tel: 01502 476646

Comments powered by Disqus