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
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