This month's feature could easily fall under the heading 'Irini’s Other Half Finds' as it is John who has been enthusiastically encouraging me to write about The Black Swan, in Ravenstonedale.

I suspect that his eagerness lies partly in his fondness for simply turning left at Junction 36 and heading north. Every time we do, he never fails to remark on the stunning landscape that unfolds before us as we drive past Junction 37 often lamenting that many visitors to Cumbria, unless bound for Keswick and beyond, miss out on this scenic beauty.

I must admit, I am equally excited by the beauty of the lush green valley with the tranquil river Lune meandering through it and the majestic bracken covered Howgill Fells rising to the east.

The Black Swan, RavenstonedaleThe Black Swan, Ravenstonedale (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

We are both very keen to venture a little further afield than what seems to be our natural habitat in South Lakes; there is always so much to enjoy and write about in all corners of our beautiful county.

It was a Monday morning that I suddenly felt the urge for a little excursion and something delightful at our destination so, shortly after 9am, I called the Black Swan.

Later in the car I said to John how lovely it had been to be greeted with a cheerful, bright and welcoming voice first thing on a Monday morning. I am not so sure I ever sounded like that back in my days in the City but when we arrived Nikki (who looks after front of house at breakfast and lunch) was as lovely in person as she had sounded on the telephone.


I didn’t feel very hungry and was not planning on having a big main course but when I saw the selection of puddings I was tempted not to have any savoury food at all and just fill my face with sugar. I settled on three from the list and that meant that I would only probably have room for a starter, which was to come at the same time as John’s main.

As a typical Greek, I have a habit of not simply drinking without having something to nibble so I asked for a few olives. Lately, as I've been writing about my culinary retreats, I've found myself contemplating the significance of food in our connection with ourselves and others, its impact on our emotional wellbeing and its ability to shape, or colour at least, our memories.

Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I immediately felt a sense of familiarity and comfort at the sight of a generous serving of Chalkidiki and Kalamata olives. I instantly recognised them as being supplied by Silver & Green, a local brand I greatly respect for the thorough research they conduct on the products they offer.

Double baked cheese souffleDouble baked cheese souffle (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

While I was munching on my olives and dreaming of leisurely walks amongst the olive groves surrounding our village home, John was digging into his double baked cheese souffle. What looked like an attractive little mount of yumminess made with Cheddar and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire and topped with crispy onions, quickly turned into mouthfuls of cloud like consistency with a golden crispy exterior.

Very often cheese souffle is served without any relief and I personally struggle after a couple of mouthfuls. Head chef Scott Fairweather wisely serves his on top of a mixture of leeks and onion relish made with Marmite and brown sugar, all balancing the richness of the dish and adding complexity to the flavour.

It was a quiet Monday lunchtime and I felt comfortable enough to have a good nose around the dining room. I wasn’t sure what to make it of it all. I liked the modern lamps hanging by rope in the corners giving out a warm glow. I was not so certain about the stuffed pigeon or ferret but overall I very much liked the space.

Skrei cod on a bed of potted shrimp cassoulet served with sauteed broccoli Skrei cod on a bed of potted shrimp cassoulet served with sauteed broccoli (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

The many pictures, the metallic objects, the Farrow & Ball ‘Green Smoke’ walls, the exotic pattern in muted colours of the Little Greene wallpaper (I later found out is ‘Crowe Hall Lane’) and the light linen curtains all worked to create a quirky space that was comfortable, warm and calm.

Owner Louise Dinnes has a great interest in interior design, I was told, so chooses the décor herself in agreement with Scott.

Louise bought the pub 18 years ago when it was nearly derelict. She had previously travelled with her job in corporate marketing and wanted to be together as a family when her late husband, Alan, fell ill. She had always loved people, food, cooking and interiors so it seemed the right thing to do.

Rabbit and pistachio terrine served with pickles Rabbit and pistachio terrine served with pickles (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

Back to the table, I thought the bread looked and tasted familiar and was not surprised to hear it is by More? Artisan bakery. Scott buys local produce wherever possible. The fish comes from either Neve Fleetwood or Hodgson of Hartlepool, the meat from Udale in Morecambe or Lakes Speciality Foods, Staveley, and the vegetables from McClures.

John’s skrei cod on a bed of potted shrimp cassoulet served with sauteed broccoli on the side was so meaty and perfectly cooked I almost regretted having a starter for my main. I shouldn’t have worried though because the rabbit and pistachio terrine served with pickles and toast was both filling and delicious. I loved the delicate, slightly sweet and subtle gamey flavour of the rabbit which was complemented perfectly by the sweet, rich, nutty flavour of the crunchy pistachios.

And then it was pudding time! I went for the tropical fruit pavlova and the lemon curd cheesecake served with blackcurrants. If John was happy with his cardamom-infused almond milk rice pudding on a bed of damson jam and topped with rose petals and toasted almonds, I was in seventh heaven with my pavlova.

Cardamom-infused almond milk rice pudding on a bed of damson jam and topped with rose petals and toasted almondsCardamom-infused almond milk rice pudding on a bed of damson jam and topped with rose petals and toasted almonds (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

The aroma of the abundant lime zest was intoxicating from a distance as charming front of house Leah laid the meringue in front of me. The eating experience was one of sheer pleasure as my spoon pierced first through the kiwi and rum-poached pineapple, then through the vanilla crème pâtissière and finally through the light and fluffy meringue with its crisp exterior into the refreshing passion fruit and coconut sauce. This was a pudding I would remember for some time to come and a hard act to follow.

So I decided to take the lemon curd cheesecake home. It was an individual portion comprising a light and zingy cheese cream nestled on top of the thinnest, crispiest of biscuit bases and topped with a blackcurrant compote and a ginger snap tuille. It was enjoyed twice with mid-morning and afternoon coffee, yum!

Scott, who heads a team of four at the Black Swan, has said that he hopes to win his own Michelin star one day. If I was a betting woman, I would wager that this aspiration will materialise sooner than the young chef thinks.

The Black Swan, Ravenstonedale, CA17 4NG

015396 23204