The Ing­ham Swan is fly­ing high

A suc­ces­sion of de­li­cious cour­ses, brought by friendly and knowl­edge­able staff, are sea­soned by an aware­ness that this was so nearly lost

EDP Norfolk - - EATING OUT - WORDS: Rowan Man­tell

There is some­thing mirac­u­lous about the Ing­ham Swan. With its golden thatch and an­cient flint-and-brick walls it looks and feels as if it has been here for ever, an­chored in the far north-east of Nor­folk, where lovely lanes me­an­der be­tween vil­lages and land slips qui­etly into the sea. The inn has stood here, right next to the soar­ing vil­lage church, for close to 700 years. But less than two years ago it was al­most lost. Fire tore through the beau­ti­ful build­ing leav­ing the Swan roof­less, and ap­par­ently ru­ined.

Yet it is back and, apart from scaf­fold­ing around the ad­join­ing cot­tage, it is hard to be­lieve how close it came to de­struc­tion be­cause the re­fur­bish­ment has re­tained the patina of his­tory and

man­aged not to stray into ei­ther pas­tiche or too-new.

The Ing­ham Swan has not just risen from the ashes, it has sur­passed the phoenix and is fly­ing high.

We vis­ited for a Sun­day lunch and the menu was noth­ing short of won­der­ful – and pretty won­der­fully priced too for food sourced and cooked with such care and flair, at £23.50 for two cour­ses and £28 for three. Other menus in­clude the a la carte, daily lunch and din­ner and a stun­ning-look­ing tast­ing menu.

The Sun­day lunch is pretty stun­ning too with seven choices for ev­ery course. I started with warm smoked mack­erel, crispy crab cake, shell­fish bisque and pome­gran­ate salad. My hus­band (of 29 years that day) went for the pan-seared scal­lops with saf­fron cau­li­flower, raisin puree and crisply chicken wing (a £3 sup­ple­ment.) The com­bi­na­tion of flavours and tex­tures was ex­cel­lent, with the mack­erel plump and ten­der, the bisque all smooth pi­quancy and the crab cake a delicate de­light.

Even the crock­ery is worth savour­ing, my starter served in a wide-rimmed, off-cen­tre bowl. One of the staff saw me ad­mir­ing it and men­tioned how some of the table­ware is made by a lo­cal pot­ter. It is that kind of at­ten­tion to de­tail that makes a meal here a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence.

For the main course, lamb, beef, chicken, cod and sea bream all star. My hus­band had lamb, with roast pota­toes, cab­bage, parsnips, York­shire pud­ding and a red wine reduction. I had a red onion and Bin­ham blue tart­let with roast squash, beet­root and swede with pine nuts, and salsa verde.

One of the things I liked about the menu, apart from just about ev­ery­thing, was that it was de­scrip­tive without tip­ping

over into pre­ten­tious. It’s good to know what’s go­ing to be on the plate, and per­haps a brief idea of how it has been pre­pared, but the Swan swerves the over-shar­ing of driz­zled, be­jaz­zled this and moon-grown, caviar-fed that.

The lamb was pro­nounced per­fectly cooked and my tart­let was sim­ply su­perb. And the por­tions were gen­er­ous without be­ing daunt­ing, so when the dessert menu was of­fered, its seven op­tions were, sev­enth heaven, all still on the ta­ble. Not lit­er­ally, but how to choose be­tween sev­eral posh takes on favourite pud­dings? I was un­able to re­sist the cheese­board of­fer­ing both Baron Bigod and Bin­ham Blue (and no sup­ple­ment) while my hus­band chose af­fogato, which was a new word for me, and a com­bi­na­tion of salted caramel ice cream, white chocolate mousse, white chocolate and es­presso for him.

The food was im­pos­si­ble to fault, the ser­vice friendly and prompt, the at­mos­phere warm, the feel a happy blend of so­phis­ti­cated and re­laxed.

The im­pres­sive restora­tion should sat­isfy past cus­tomers; the fine food and imag­i­na­tive menus are likely to win new pil­grims to the Ing­ham Swan.

Our re­view vis­its are unan­nounced and we pay for our meals.

The Ing­ham Swan, Sea Palling Road, Ing­ham, NR12 9AB 01692 581099

‘The Ing­ham Swan has risen from the ashes and sur­passed the phoenix’

ABOVE LEFT: A starter of warm smoked mack­erel, crispy crab cake, shell­fish bisque and pome­gran­ate salad

LEFT: Triple Chocolate Mar­quise, Vanilla Ice Cream, Pra­line, Burnt But­ter Crumb

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