“I’m so glad you brought us here,” said my impressed girlfriend as she finished off her beautifully-presented, deliciously-rich chocolate dessert.
If that statement didn’t tell the whole story, then her beaming smile and cleared plate – on the back of polishing off her starter and main – most definitely did.
And I had to agree. Hardy’s Bistro, in Alnwick’s White Swan Hotel, had been a fine choice. The perfect tonic to the Monday blues.
If only I could eat like this at the start of every week!
Yes, some may say that the £68.15 price-tag that the two of us paid for a three-course meal, plus drinks, was on the expensive side. But it was worth every penny.
Before dining, I had seen some mentions on TripAdvisor of the place being pretentious.
Not for me. Yes, Hardy’s does take itself seriously. Very well-presented food and admittedly it doesn’t come cheap. But it certainly isn’t pretentious. Classy, yes, pretentious, no.
Besides, I think such an establishment is perfectly suited to a hotel environment and it is certainly welcome in Alnwick – a town which, in my opinion, is a decent dining destination.
First impressions of the bistro are impressive; comfortable and warm, stylish and modern.
This, coupled with classical music playing in the background, created a fine ambience.
While the venue does offer a children’s menu, I would say that it is a place for an ‘occasion’, very much suited to couples wanting to enjoy a relaxing, if not slightly formal, meal.
Certainly the majority of people eating on Monday were adult couples.
For drinks, my partner opted for a large Chardonnay (£6.35), which was lean and crisp, while I went for a pint of Amstel (£3.80).
On that note, the wine list was extensive.
For starters, my partner opted for the warm salad of boudin noir, crispy bacon, soft poached egg and red wine dressing (£6.95).
I chose the confit duck leg roulade, Waldorf salad and a light walnut dressing (£6.25).
The poached egg was incredibly soft and fluffy, the bacon crispy – almost wafer-like – and the boudin noir was plentiful.
On the other side of the table, the duck starter was also a hit. The three decently-sized bundles of duck were flavoursome – if a tad dry for my palette – while the Waldorf salad was fresh and vibrant.
I have to confess, I’d never had a Waldorf salad before, but had always wanted to try it after watching that episode of Fawlty Towers. I wasn’t disappointed.
The meal went up a notch for the main course.
My partner chose the slow-cooked lamb neck with rosemary mash, baby veg and redcurrent jam (£16.95).
Tempted by the dishes under the menu heading, A Celebration of Great British Beef, I went for the osso buco of beef shin, served traditionally with braised vegetables, red wine and buttered mash (£15.95).
The meat on both dishes was incredible, melting in the mouth. Mine fell off the bone. Stunning stuff.
My mash was creamy and thick while the gravy oozed flavour, especially of red wine, which suited the beef perfectly.
Perhaps the only complaint was that there weren’t more vegetables.
From the moment we sat down, my girlfriend has insisted she was getting a dessert, made in-house by the pastry chef. She went for the peanut butter and dark chocolate cheesecake with Chantilly cream (£6.95). It was worth the wait. Now, one of the best things about eating out with your partner is you can be bold enough to ask (or demand!) a sneaky piece of their dish. True to form, I did. And wow! It was a journey for the taste buds. Firstly, you were hit by the crisp dark-chocolate topping before the peanut butter took over and then the chocolate came back. It was a real, lingering, rich taste too.
As for me, I went for an Irish coffee, with a shot of Jameson’s (£3 for the single shot and £1.95 for the coffee). It was a fine way to round off the meal.
On top of all of this, the service was fantastic. The waiter was extremely attentive, but not intrusive. He had a good manner and was very friendly.
The wait between courses was about five minutes, which for me was a fine balance in between each.
HISTORIC LINKS WITH A FAMOUS VESSEL
One of the most interesting aspects of The White Swan is its Olympic Dining Suite which features the magnificent panelling, mirrors and stained-glass windows from the Titanic’s sister ship, the RMS Olympic, which was launched in 1911, a year before its sister’s tragic maiden voyage. It can cater for up to 150 people theatre-style and 120 diners. Meanwhile, Hardy’s Bistro overlooks Alnwick’s high street, offering a selection of light dishes, salads and a full-three course menu.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Homemade soup of the day.....£4.95
Chicken liver parfait, crostini and onion chutney.....£6.95
Sauté wild mushroom, Madeira and chive cream on toasted brioche.....£6.95
Pan-roasted ling fillet, crushed new potatoes, curly kale, cider and clam sause.....£15.95
Hardy’s duo of fish and chips, pea puree and tartate sauce.....£13.95
Sweet potato, broccoli and spinach crumble with glazed Gruyere cheese.....£12.95
DESSERTS AND CHEESE
Vanilla-infused panna cotta, mulled wine and poahced pear.....£5.95
Selection of Northumbrian and Great British cheeses.....£7.95
star ratings (out of 10)
Quality of food.....9
Value for money.....8
Children catered for.....7
Access for disabled.....7
Toilet for disabled.....Yes
OVERALL RATING: 9
VERDICT: Well-presented food in a comfortable setting. It is another fine resturant in Alnwick, which is becoming a decent dining destination.
Contact: 01665 602109 or visit www.classiclodges.co.uk/The_White_Swan_Hotel_Alnwick/.