Patrick’s Pub Trawls: The Swan Inn, Bampton
PUBLISHED: 15:06 13 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:06 13 August 2014
all rights reserved 2012
In a new, monthly column for Devon Life, PATRICK McCAIG of The Otter Brewery takes us on a trawl of some of his favourite pubs
My father’s family (wee McCaig clan), from Oban in Scotland, built a tower now known as a McCaig’s Folly; Scotland’s answer to the Acropolis - a home for its builders and a few philanthropists. The trouble was we ran out of money, couldn’t afford a roof and a marginally grumpy gang of stonemasons had to crawl back under the stones from whence they came. Unlike those who built St Michael’s Church of Bampton - they made their lodgings in what is now the Swan Inn…and what a wise move that was.
The Swan Inn is now under the ownership of Paul and Donna Berry, who are clearly carving a gem of a pub that successfully brings the concept of serving food and drink together without being solely a pub or a restaurant. In 2013 this establishment proved it was no folly as it was voted Pub of the Year in Mid Devon.
We (Otter Brewery review team!) turned up, professionally intent as ever (hmmmm) to see what all the noise was about. A warm welcome ensued from Paul, a bear of an owner, in his whites fresh from the kitchen, and a brief introduction to his lovely wife Donna who exuded a Mumsy passion – an ingredient I have come to realise works wonders in all walks of life, but especially the on trade.
We settled in by the open-style bar for a sharpener and packet of pork scratchings - a great barometer of a well-meaning landlord. Crunching with noisy enthusiasm, we soon came to realise that the eclectic mix of customers in this contemporary rustic setting made for a healthy heartbeat to this business. Three cask ales stood proud on the bar like wickets that delivered two guest ales supplied by the family wholesaler Tolchards and one from Otter’s seasonal range. Later in our lunchtime session, I requested a cheeky half of the Ashridge cider, which was delivered by the equally cheekily dressed waitress, who proceeded to bring me a pint instead. Tough!
So happy in the atmosphere, Ross, my partner-in-crime on this outing, and I pored over the menu and soon came to realise that to do it justice we should take up lodgings in one of their three guestrooms and hang around for a few days (much like those craftsmen who built the church). The happy babble of chatter increased in volume as the crowd within grew and was articulated by a group of girls who were definitely “out to lunch” and very much enjoying each other’s company. This is what I call a pub.
Having chosen and devoured the best on the menu – in my case a crab mousse to start with followed by a chicken burger of monolithic proportions – I was replete. I was saddened to hear their famous Scotch eggs had ‘run out’ but in fairness, even a man of my proportions would have been stretched to fit them in as well!
The Swan Inn is well worth travelling to. Exmoor is nearby and there are bowls available to water the dogs. The love of the crew running it and their wares on offer are a great example of why pubs are so important in our communities.
Arbor, Arbor Ales
Devon Storm, Red Rock Brewery
Seville Bitter, Otter Brewery
Pork Scratchings by Ray Gray Snack’s (7/10)
The Swan Inn, Station Road, Bampton, Devon, EX16 9NG.
Tel: 01398 332248