The Swan Inn, Esher: restaurant review
Try spicy prawn fritters, roast suckling pig and strawberries with vermouth vinegar at José Pizarro’s gastro pub with Spanish accents
Looking for restaurants in Surrey? Read our review of gastro pub The Swan Inn, and check out our guide for the best gastro pubs in the UK here.
The Swan Inn in a nutshell
Chef José Pizarro brings his signature Spanish enthusiasm and passion for the best ingredients, cooked well, to this suburban Surrey pub.
In his first venture outside of London, José has crafted a menu at The Swan Inn that includes the tapas he has become renowned for – from croquetas and tortilla de patata to his impeccably sourced acorn-fed jamón ibérico – alongside pub classics with a Spanish twist (think Estrella Damm-battered fish and chips, and sticky toffee pudding with pedro ximénez sherry sauce).
What's the vibe?
Previously under the helm of Claude Bosi, The Swan Inn’s position as a gastro pub was well established before José’s arrival. There are wooden floors, clothless tables and flashes of colour in the form of prussian blue banquettes, sage wood panelling and patterned cushions. Tall ceilings allow for lots of natural light around the well-stocked bar, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating, too.
What's the food like at The Swan Inn?
As with all of José’s restaurants, you’re guaranteed a good meal here and it’s hard to order badly. Staff gladly guide you through the menu – advising six or so savoury dishes between two (it’s all so good though, that we sneak in a seventh). Blistered padrón peppers and patatas bravas with eye-wateringly garlicky aïoli and spicy, smoky tomato sauce are as good as you’ll ever get in Spain. A scotch egg with liquid-gold yolk, encased in Spanish black pudding and jamón ibérico and golden breadcrumbs is proper pub food, made better with José’s Spanish spin. Spicy prawn fritters arrive as bouncy golden balls, bursting with nuggets of sweet prawn, flecks of fresh and fiery red chilli, and coriander – and a zingy lemon aïoli. Grilled english asparagus comes under a cloud of grated manchego, with a crisp fried egg (more runny, sunshine yolk) and smoky romesco which makes working towards your five-a-day a dream.
If you’re here for a roast – and trust us, you should be – roasted suckling pig is some of the best pork we’ve ever tasted. It comes with ‘all the trimmings’, which in the mind of José means roast tatties, yorkshire pud, charred cabbage, roasted carrots, celeriac purée, gravy and soft, sweet and slow-roasted pepper-packed pisto.
Choose from a Marmite-esque José classic – chocolate, olive oil and sea salt pot – (we’re lovers, not haters), fragrant poached peach and elderflower with an olive oil and almond cake, or Spanish cheeses with membrillo. The best, though, is perhaps the simplest – Spanish strawberries (eaten just ahead of the English season), drizzled with sweet and sharp vermouth vinegar, with an ambrosial white chocolate cream and crunch of sugared green pistachios.
And the drinks?
This is a pub, so drinks are just as important here as the food – and fans of beer, gin and sherry are well catered for. Choose from a range of bespokely garnished gin and Fever Tree tonic (from Gin Mare with rosemary and pomegranate to Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla with orange). Wine is mostly Spanish or English (think cava and Sussex sparkling), with the occasional old world bottle making appearances via France, Italy or Germany. You’ll find Estrella Damm on tap and a large range of sherries (‘from the sea’, ‘antique’ or with ‘almond notes’) and cocktails including red and white sangria and whisky- and sherry-spiked negronis.
Make a day of it with a walk before or after – there are plenty of routes for varying abilities starting and ending in the town.
The Swan Inn, 2 Hare Lane, Esher, Surrey KT10 9BS
Words by Laura Rowe