Here at Wf Live we're big believers in the good old-fashioned home-cooked Sunday dinner (and by dinner we mean that meal eaten some time in the couple of hours from noon onwards: we are in Yorkshire, after all). A roast joint, plenty of gravy, Yorkshire puddings served on their own as a starter: you know where we're coming from.
However, as much of a weekly treat as this is, it's also a pleasure every now and again to forget the cooking and the washing up and, instead, let someone else do the work. Our preference on such occasions is a Sunday carvery: on choice and value the self-service option invariably beats table service hands-down.
Thus it was that we found oursleves, for the first time in several years, pulling into the car park alongside The Swan, the prominently positioned half-timbered pub on the corner of Low Street and Common Lane, South Milford.
We were Sunday regulars here at one time but, for various reasons, it had been a while since our last visit when we recently spotted, in passing, a big banner advertising a Sunday carvery. Curiosity piqued, it was time to renew acquaintance.
An August 2014 downpour badly affected The Swan, which stands noticeably below the level of the road and has a beck running alongside the car park, but the consequent repair and refurbishment job has created a much lighter (dare we say upmarket?) environment, with well-spaced tables in a big open-plan bar and dining area. Arriving early we had a good choice of tables, selecting one by a window more-or-less opposite the bar on which sat a couple of hand pumps.
The carvery counter is in a small corner room – which, in those years past, made a nice private dining space if you were in luck – and offered a choice of beef, pork and gammon.
Three slices of meat, in any combination, is the standard offer: one opted for all beef, one for pork only and one for pork and gammon; plus a sizeable Yorkshire pudding (it wouldn't have looked lost on its own!) which left no room for doubt that it was home made, being crispy in the right places but also possessing that necessary slight doughiness.
Roast and buttered new potatoes, cauliflower cheese, broccoli, peas and carrots were the vegetable options, plus stuffing and the usual condiments and sauces.
The meat was done just right – no trace of dryness which sometimes afflicts carvery joints – and there was no skimping on thickness of slices, either. The beef was tender and the gammon had just the right degree of saltiness.
'Just right' also applied to the vegetables – although the roast potatoes were rather on the hard side (in fairness to The Swan's kitchen, it's a common carvery problem) – with the creamy, sticky cauliflower cheese being the pick of the crop, as it were. Some might say it was over-cheesy but that's not a concept this reviewer recognises!
The gravy, simmering in a big cauldron, was top quality stuff, too, with plenty of meaty residues: on hearing the "aah" of anticipation as one of our party ladled it out, the chef kindly produced a gravy boat for us to take an extra helping to our table.
At £7.95 for one course, The Swan carvery is pretty much the going rate as far as price is concerned but scores above average on quality (as well as quantity of meat). A blackboard advertised a selection of desserts available at £2.95 but, all agreed, we were well enough sated to pass on that option.
Returning to an old friend or favourite place after a long time away is, so the warning goes, bound to end in disappointment. Not so our reacquaintance with Sunday at The Swan, however – and it definitely won't be as long before we pay a visit again.
What we liked: the generous helpings of meat, the size of the Yorkshire puddings, the extra gravy.
Could be better: choice of vegetables, the option to add a starter or dessert for a fixed two-course price rather than priced separately.
The Swan Hotel, Low Street, South Milford LS25 5AR. Telephone 01977 682783. Food served noon–6pm on Sundays, bar meals available rest of week.