Lunch with The Swan at Lavenham

This enchanting, English country hotel dates back to the 15th century, but as you push open the heavy oak door and step inside The Swan in Lavenham. Reviewed by Stephanie Mackentyre

THIS enchanting, English country hotel dates back to the 15th century, but as you push open the heavy oak door and step inside The Swan in Lavenham, everything looks pristine and well cared for. One of the many pleasures of The Swan is its ability to appeal to a range of diners. There’s the lounge for less formal dining and on a warm summer day the picturesque garden can hold up to 80 guests. There’s three private function rooms for parties, the garden room for a further 40 and of course the main air-conditioned restaurant, with its huge fireplace, vaulted ceiling and original wooden beams, can take another 100 guests comfortably.

My lunch host was The Swan’s general manager, Michael Burn, who’s been with Thorpeness and Aldeburgh Hotels who own The Swan for more than four years. During his time at The Swan the bedrooms have all been refurbished, cutting down on the number of rooms to give the remaining 45 plenty of space so they are now all suites or junior suites with flat screen TVs, free WiFi and luxury toiletries. As we sat down to dine, Michael talked about how popular the cookery workshops have become.‘We run them at lunchtimes and again in the evening on the last Thursday of each month. The guests get more than two hours of tuition and top tips from our chef, followed by a two-course meal with wine and all for a very reasonable �35 per head.’

I was keen to try some of this culinary expertise for myself and I wasn’t disappointed. Sous chef Terry Gaughan was in charge of preparing our lunch – he originally came to The Swan for a two-week placement and never left. To start we were treated to pan-seared, diver-caught scallops served with a fresh pea puree, fresh strawberry slices and a shell fish emulsion and oil, all dressed with micro leaves. It was as delightful on the eye as on the palate, a lovely fresh mix of summer ingredients, with three great-tasting scallops.

The wine list is over a dozen pages in length with a dazzling array of New and Old World red and white wines, some interesting sparkling varieties, Champagnes and plenty of choice when it comes to wines by the glass too. Our main course was Telmar duck breast with Suffolk bacon polenta cake, local asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, baby broad beans and some baby shallots. The duck was succulent and cooked with just enough pinkness for my liking, and the polenta cake was a lovely surprise, bursting with saltiness from the smoked bacon, really very agreeable. When dessert was served I didn’t know whether to eat it or paint with it. It looked like an exquisite artist’s palate with the colours set against the grey slate. We were treated to an individual ginger jelly, locally poached pear, orange tart, caramelised rhubarb from Terry’s own garden, pear puree, raspberry coulis and all finished off with a cobnut and homemade biscuit with a sprinkling of honeycomb. 

Get the taste

The SwanHigh StreetLavenhamSudburyCO10 9QA01787 247 477

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