The Swan at West Malling reviewed

Celebrating its tenth birthday this year and with talented young chef Scott Goss at the helm, The Swan at West Malling is definitely one to watch

The Swan at West Malling reviewed

Celebrating its tenth birthday this year and with talented young chef Scott Goss at the helm, The Swan at West Malling is definitely one to watch

When Gordon Ramsay’s former right-hand man, Mark Sargeant, left his boss to join the Swan Collection as its creative director at the end of 2009, The Swan in West Malling really hit the headlines.

But despite his many references to ‘Sarge’ during our recent visit, it is head chef Scott Goss - who met his new buddy when he appeared on Ramsey’s The F Word - is still very much the guy in charge.

The ex-Thanet College student is passionate about achieving even greater heights for the restaurant, which recently won a Michelin Bib Gourmand for the ninth consecutive year. And he is equally passionate about continuing to deliver his message of local and seasonal produce.

“Most of our ingredients are sourced from local farms and growers, whether it’s rare breed meat or wild herbs,” says Scott. “I’ll buy in a whole cow and break down the carcass and sell it on as individual cuts.”

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That means on the short but well-balanced menu you’ll find meat supplied by local farms, such as the Longhorn beef from Richard Vaughan’s Huntsham Court Farm, venison from nearby Chart Farm and lamb from Alan West “five minutes up the road.”

Add in Chapmans of Sevenoaks for seafood, Watts Farms for vegetables and Kentdown Mushrooms, and it’s not hard to see why Scott is so inspired by cooking in the Garden of England.

He’s also pretty chuffed because The Swan has just turned 10 and that gives plenty of excuses to celebrate, including ‘Scott and Sarge’s’ first cooking demonstration together on 26 April.

But the proof is in the eating and The Hungry One and I set to with gusto, particularly interested in testing the quality of the locally sourced meat. My Gressingham duck terrine with chorizo was full of big, hearty flavours, nicely offset by a dainty circle of rocket salad dressed with walnuts. And THO was delighted with his oxtail ravioli, enjoying the combination of the richly caramelised onions with the light pasta.

For my main, I was tempted by the unusual combination of Kentish wild sea bass - landed that morning by day boat – served with spinach and ox cheek. “It’s my take on a winter surf and turf, using a smaller cut of an expensive fish with cheap ox cheek,” explained Scott.

Artfully presented and undeniably tasty, for me the ox dominated the plate to the extent that my beloved bass was all but drowned out in the flavour stakes – but a terrifically original dish, particularly if you like your meat big and bold.

Meanwhile, THO gave full marks to his two cuts of lamb - pinkly tender rack and braised shoulder – served with wild mushrooms and leeks and ‘proper’ fat chips on the side.

The attention to detail continues with the dessert menu, where my very more-ish peanut butter and chocolate parfait was accompanied by a cherry sorbet made from cherries preserved in kirsch at the end of the summer season, while THO’s lemon meringue tart was deemed a great example of an old classic.

To drink, we enjoyed a Rolly Gassman Pinto Blanc from Alsace and a velvety smooth Nuit Saint Georges Burgundy from an extensive list that includes the Swan House selection, half bottles and a good choice by the glass.

The main ground-floor section of the 75-seater restaurant overlooks Scott and his nine-strong team through a viewing window, one of the many trompe l'oeils of the evening. From the outside a 15th-century coaching inn, inside the surprisingly spacious Swan mixes wood, granite and stainless steel with original restored beams, candles with state-of-the-art (and very expensive) modern Italian chandeliers.

The decor is muted browns and greys on the restaurant walls and chair cushions, while upstairs a second bar and three private dining rooms are richly decorated in a distinctively quirky style. Outside, a paved and shaded terrace with oak and zinc tables and Philippe Starck chairs is a welcome addition for al fresco dining. There’s space for a marquee and it’s no surprise to learn that weddings are big business here, as are meeting, conference and corporate events.

Scott tells us there are also plans to create a new bakery adjoining the restaurant, which will provide bread not only for the restaurant but also for general sale. Later on, he also hopes to launch a delicatessen in the high street.

Already handling up to 1,000 covers a week and close to the affluent Kings Hill area, it certainly seems that the sky’s the limit for this ambitious young chef, who tells us: “I’m in a great position now in my career, I love my team, I’m happy with my food and that my customers are happy. We’re very proud of what we do here.”

The Swan

35 Swan Street, West Malling ME19 6JU.

Tel: 01732 521910 

Typical prices: Duck terrine �8, wild seabass with spinach and ox cheek �19, lemon meringue tart �6.50

Open: Mon-Sat, 12pm-2.45 pm and 6pm-10.30 pm, Sun spitroast 12pm-4pm, last orders 8pm

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