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The White Swan
Pleasley, Nottinghamshire
01623 811881
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Dinner At The White Swan In Pleasley

Published On Sunday 12 May 2024 by Sticky Beak
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I’m not 100% certain, but I’m fairly sure there’s a line in ‘Pretty Woman’ where a bloke’s wanging on about “you gotta have a dream” (or maybe it’s one of the characters, whatever), but Paul Stevens has always hankered after having his own pub with a kitchen in where he can cook. Dream long- and work hard- enough, and you get what you want. Paul and his partner Sara-Lee Burton took on The White Swan pub in Pleasley and were setting on their way with their dream, when Mother Nature threw a curve-ball and the premises got flooded! Not giving in, the pair undertook a refurb (and a kitchen extension, cos why not, y’know?!) and once the dust had settled, so to speak, invited His Nibs and I along to try the food.

As far as locations go, The White Swan is pretty much in a perfect one: located smack-bang across from a good old English village green (whose tree was in full blossom), and the solid stone building looked stunning in the evening light. The car park is fairly small but there’s loads on the adjacent road, so that’s where we parked the jalopy, walking back the short distance to the venue. You can’t fail to be impressed by the hand-painted Swans in the beer garden; not only are they visually impressive, they also give a nod to the history of this pit village as they were done by the striking coal miners in the 1980s.

Stepping inside, The White Swan is your archetypal, no nonsense British pub, which are increasingly a dying breed. It might not win any chichi trend awards, but it was spotlessly clean and the greeting was warm. Apparently, the place is haunted and the ghosts like to play games with the lights in the toilets - cheeky! The bar forms the central, focal point and there are then two areas: the snug/tap room, where dogs are very welcome, and the restaurant area. You can eat in both areas, and children are permitted until the widely accepted curfew of 9pm (unless there’s a private event on, then they can stay until their parents go). 

His Nibs and I decided to go and dine in the restaurant area; not to be snobby, but because we could sprawl out and take better photos of the food. Seating comes via a mix of banquettes and free-standing, mid-back chairs upholstered in burgundy or forest green patterned fabric. On the walls is a mix of modern ‘slogan’ prints and more traditional items such as an old gramophone, complete with magnificent horn. When we’d had a couple of minutes to settle in, Sara-Lee came over to have a chat whilst she took our starter orders of Garlic Mushrooms and Breaded Mini Camembert, both £4.

We didn’t have long to wait until our food was served, and both dishes were served on rectangular platters and you could see the steam rising from them. The Man Bird’s duo of mini Camembert wheels outer crumb coating had been cooked to ultra-crisp perfection; there’s something about the sound of cutting into a crispy layer that makes you smile, isn’t there? Protected by the crunchy layer was seriously oozy cheese that formed strings as it was lifted towards His Nibs’ greedy mouth, and at its side was a cool, crisp mixed leaf salad.

My starter choice was a slice of toasted Ciabatta that was absolutely loaded with sliced Mushrooms bathing in a seriously creamy, herb-pimped garlic sauce. This was a beautiful dish: simple but layers of taste that worked well together, and sometimes it’s the uncomplicated dishes that are the best. You couldn’t grumble at the portion size, either, for both dishes. Our lovely server, Courtney - I hope I’ve spelt that right! - had checked we were enjoying our food and happily took back clean plates to the kitchen: happy Chef = happy team.

It was a good start to the meal, and we were both looking forward to seeing what came next; I’d ordered roasted, Apple Cider-glazed Pork Belly with Honey and Mustard Mash, and Cauliflower Cheese (£10.95), and The Man opted for Paul’s JD (Jack Daniels) Burger with Home-made Onion Rings, and skin-on Fries (£11.95). We’d been more than happy with the size of our starters but, blimey, they didn’t compare to the beasts that were our mains – you certainly get a lot of bang-for-your-buck here!

I had a pair of large, deep pieces of Pork Belly that had a seriously impressive layer of golden, crunchy crackling on their surface; now I know not everyone likes this, but I blooming love the stuff, so I set-to, crunching away merrily. No less delicious was the juicy, tender meat; this simply melted in the mouth, imparting its sublime, creamy taste on my tongue. The Honey and Mustard Mash was exactly as stated, and super-smooth, and I got a gentle warmth in the back of my mouth rather than wanting to sneeze from Mustard overload! No complaints with the mash at all, and from a lass that can take-or-leave spuds, this is a compliment. I have to say, though, that it was the Cauliflower Cheese that got my attention, as far as sides went – you all know how much I love this accompaniment. The vegetable still had a bit of firmness to it (nothing worse than soggy veg!) and the cheese sauce was marvellously unctuous. If I had a complaint, it would be that the dish lacked a bit of colour; just a couple of bits of Tenderstem Broccoli or shredded Savoy Cabbage would’ve boosted the visual appeal exponentially. Talking to Sara-Lee later, she said that her and Paul had discussed this previously and changes were going to be made.

The Man Bird has devoured some large burgers in his time, but the two 6oz, prime Steak patties were topped with Bacon slices, melted Chilli Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, a Bourbon and Maple sauce and several Onion Rings… this minx was going to take some eating! For those who reckon they’re the full package, why not do the White Swan’s ‘Big Daddy’ challenge? All you have to do is eat four quarter-pound Burgers, 8 rashers of Bacon, 2 Hash Browns, 8 Onion Rings, a ladle of Mushrooms, 4 Fried Eggs, 4 slices of Cheese, Lettuce and Tomato (which seems a bit like peeing in the wind, really!) a Kilogram of Chips (yep, you read that right - a kilo/2.2lbs!) and a sauce of your choice. The kicker is that this has all got to be scoffed by one person in 40 minutes – if you can do it, the £20 cost is waived. So far, there’s only been one successful soul…respect! I reckon a hall of fame is needed, what d’ya think, folks? 

Anyway, going back to His Nibs’ meal; the burger was awesome, and the sauce was ridiculously good; you could taste the Jack Daniels clearly in the mouth. The burger was pleasingly dense and full of flavour, the bacon tasty and tender and the Chilli Cheese was fantastically gooey, dribbling down The Man’s chin! Crunchy outers on the Onion Rings had no residual grease on them, so the vegetable’s taste was clear on the palate; ditto, the crisp Fries.

Courtney and Sara-Lee had been making sure we had everything we wanted and I’m going to blame them for us ordering dessert; nothing to do with our inherent gluttony, obvs!! Paul is too busy as a solo Chef to make the puds himself, but they do buy in good quality morsels so it’s still worth indulging in a sweet treat. I had the Traditional Apple and Caramel Cobbler with pouring Cream (you can also have Ice Cream or Custard), and The Man chose the After Dinner Mint Medley; all desserts are £4, other than the 5-Cheese, Chutney, Grape and Biscuit Cheeseboard which is £15.

The After Dinner Mint Medley was served in a tall Sundae glass, which allowed you to see the layers of Mint- and Mint Chocolate- Ice Creams nicely. Pieces of dark Chocolate and a rich Toffee Sauce swirled between the layers, too, and halves of the iconic ‘post 20.00hrs’ mints crowned everything. Cool and refreshing, this was a great conclusion to His Nibs’ meal.

My choice of dessert was an individual pastry case filled with Bramley Apple Compote, whose sharpness was delightful, topped with an Oat and Brown Sugar Crumble that then got larruped with an indulgent Caramel – yum! Beware the Caramel: it was piping hot, so don’t burn your tongue; I have been around the block enough times to dodge this error, so thought I’d pass the wisdom on.

As with our previous courses, nothing went begging and our dishes were squeaky clean. I have to say that if it’s brilliantly priced, home cooked, no frills grub you’re after, you’ll do a lot worse than pay The White Swan at Pleasley a visit. Whilst we’d been scoffing, I spied a Carvery Counter in the corner and, given our experience this time, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be returning for the Sunday Carvery, priced at £6.99, £9.99 or £11.99 for a small, regular or large version!!

Hot Wings given here, quite happily. There are also a couple of regular offers to draw your attention to: you can grab a Burger, Fries and a Pint for £9.95 pp on Wednesdays and all 12” Pizzas are a Tenner on Friday – if there’s two of you, why not have a Pizza, 12” Cheesy Garlic Bread and 2 portions of Chips: £15, what a deal! Music fans and local talent will be pleased to know that there’s an Open Mic Night, too; keep an eye on ‘The White Swan Pleasley’ Facebook Page for time/date details.

The White Swan is open as a pub 7-days -a-week: Mon-Thurs 2.30-10pm, Friday 2-11pm, Saturday Noon-11pm, and Sunday Noon-9pm. For food service, the kitchen is closed Monday and Tuesday, opens 4-7pm on Wednesday, 4-8pm on Thursday and Friday, Saturday for lunch Noon-2pm and then again 4-8pm, and Sunday Noon-4pm. Booking is essential for large groups and for the Sunday Carvery it’s bookings only from Noon until 1.30pm, with walk-ins accepted after that until 4pm. Call the team on 01623 811881 to book your table. Oh, and before I forget, Paul has started doing Breakfasts on Saturday mornings, 8-11.30am: perfect start to the weekend, I say!

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