Tuesday 11 March 2014

British Pie Week at the White Swan

Last week was British Pie Week. 

It's true, it actually was.  Sadly, this is one of those festivals that is not nearly well celebrated enough.  In fact, for most average punters, I rather imagine that British Pie Week went by unnoticed.  Fortunately, one of the people to notice it was owners of the White Swan.

It is not without a hint of irony that I note that British Pie Week has come around just as the British weather has started to (finally!) improve.  I have written before about how I believe that pies are best eaten when the weather is cold and miserable (with the exception of cold meat pies, like a pork pie or a game pie, which wants to be eaten and a hot, sunny picnic).  Nevertheless, this Grubster (together with a couple of work mates) steeled itself to venture out during the day to sample the crusts.

And thank heavens we did. 

We were offered a trio of carb-crusted meats to sample: cottage pie, steak, ale and oyster or pigs' cheek pudding.  Josh and I opted, rather unimaginatively, for the steak, ale and oyster.

Now, I'm not especially good with oysters, I won’t lie.  And by 'not especially good' I mean that they make me wretch.  So I was nervous to say the least.  I am very glad I let the joy of the beef win out over the fear of the mollusc, because this was quite simply one of the very best pies I have ever had in my life.  Ever. 

The gravy was rich, silky, smooth.  The oysters, far from the fear I had, added a distinct, saltine, almost maritime, bite to the dish.  It was a thing of absolute beauty – from the presentation through the textures to the taste.  I could not have asked for better.  It even came with a little, garlic crumb-crusted oyster on the side.  It was only because I was in polite company that restrained myself from licking the bowl.

Toby had the pigs' cheek pudding.  Proper suet puddings are few and far between – probably with good reason, given the health consideration – which is a sad thing.  Because they a beautiful beasts.  A dainty wee pudding like this, complete with curly kale and chopped, sautéed kidneys, was more than enough for a casual lunch – and, I gather, very tasty.

My only regret of pie week is this: now that it’s over, the pies are off the menu.  This is truly a tragedy, as with pie-making skill like that, the Swan should be dishing them out every damn day.

The White Swan itself is a great venue – a top-notch City boozer just off Fleet Street. 

I've eaten there a few times before and always enjoyed the food – whether it's been a lobster salad or fish and chips.  The chef clearly isn't afraid of cooking the unpopular (yet increasingly fashionable) bits we don’t like to think about – I remember that, for a long time, the bar snacks menu proudly displayed an offering of ducks hearts and livers on toast – now sadly off the menu.  The standard burger is, I am happy to say, one of the best pub burgers out there.

So if you're in the neighbourhood, pop in.  even if you can’t get a pie.

- GrubsterBoy -

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