We’ve just seen Brixton’s Naughty Piglets trot into Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Other Palace in St James’s, and now another theatre-linked restaurant has made itself worthy of a visit — irrelevant of whether you have tickets to a show.
Swan, which sits next to and is partly attached to Shakespeare’s Globe, has hired Allan Pickett as its executive chef, meaning he’ll now oversee everything from breakfasts and afternoon teas to events catering and dinners.
He comes fresh from his long-anticipated and all-too-short-lived own venue Piquet, which won much-deserved praise from all manner of critics but seemingly failed to pull in enough punters to justify its Oxford Street locale.
Swan’s first floor dining room is a simple but elegant, low-lit space, with attentions duly focussed on a rather unbeatable view out over the Thames and St Paul’s. It’s more casual than Piquet, but still carries a sense of occasion.
Followers of Pickett will notice something familiar with several of the dishes on the menu.
A starter of sliced marinated scallops served with Granny Smith apple and squid ink is a tweaked take on one he served at Piquet. It is delicate yet punchy and sharp, spurred on by a lightly-herbed oil.
Another sees a Piquet dish which used pressed suckling pig made more British by swapping in crisp-tipped pork belly to be paired with black pudding, creamed celeriac and prunes steeped in Somerset cider brandy. The gutsy flavours of the meats are softened by the celeriac and enlivened by the sweet, boozy prune — it is probably the best dish on the menu.
That’s not to say rare venison haunch served with a deliciously fat-rich, juicy faggot or a classic beef wellington are anything short of exemplary in their execution. And the same is true of a rice pudding which sings with vanilla, and a classic apple crumble with a buttery topping and a generous jug of homemade custard.
A long wine list is also more than competent, boasting a fair few unusual offerings and a good number of English options while a new cellar hints at more to come.
The main point of departure for Allan is that here his cooking is resolutely British, and rather classic with it, whereas in the past he has tended to meld patriotic produce with French flourishes.
If that sounds a bit Article 50, don’t worry — Allan’s European-inspired flair shines brightly, and much of the change is simply in the wording used.
There is a sense that he has more to give, and it would be good to see a bigger dose of his signatures and his style on the menu in place of some keep-it-safe options. But let’s remember he hasn’t been there a month yet. Give him time to bed in at Swan and this already swimmingly good restaurant could start to fly.
Perhaps Piquet’s notoriously good snail pithivier will even make it onto the menu. He could always call it a pie.
Swan, Shakespeare’s Globe: The lowdown
Final flavour: An iconic venue ups its offering
At what cost? Starters from £6, mains from £14.50 and puddings from £5.50.
Find it: 21 New Globe Walk, SE1 9DT; swanlondon.co.uk.