Having visited The Swan Inn before, for a business meeting in the middle of the day during the week, I was keen to visit again socially, during a busier period, to see if the experience matched my first experience. Sadly, it did not.
For those unaware of The Swan Inn, it is nestled in the beautiful village of Milton Keynes or, as it was previously known, Middleton. Surrounded by beautiful character properties and plenty of open space it gave the feeling of being somewhere very special. The village dates back to the 11th century, so you get a sense of history whilst passing through and the venue itself is impeccably presented.
We booked for a Sunday dinner experience and booking online was straightforward. On arrival, we were greeted by a friendly member of the team who asked us where we would like to sit. Given it was the hottest day of the year we opted to stay cool inside as the garden was very sunny and increasingly busy with customers.
The menu was fairly basic and straightforward for a Sunday setting and whilst making our food decisions, our drinks order was taken. The drink offerings were superb, and the cocktail menu was very impressive and reasonably priced. From the lunch menu we both opted for the roast topside of beef option, which came with the usual trimmings, and we added some cauliflower cheese on the side, as this is a favourite of ours.
Unfortunately, after what had been a great start, standards started to slip. The food arrived well presented, it was hot but was very much lacking in flavour and seasoning and we were so disappointed with the amount of gravy, we had to ask for more.
The beef looked like it was cooked perfectly with a pink centre but was flavourless, while the accompanying vegetables were a little dry and needed more seasoning. The extra gravy, which arrived swiftly, was very watery and, again, didn’t have a lot of flavour.
The venue had started to fill up at this point, with constant traffic to the garden area, which eventually became full, and as a result, it seemed, the service really suffered. We were not approached during the meal to see if everything was OK for us and our plates (which were clearly finished with) stayed on our table for 25 minutes until I eventually had to ask for them to be removed.
We asked for dessert menus and were informed of a couple of options being sold out. I opted for the dark chocolate fondant with honeycomb and salted caramel sauce and my wife the sticky toffee and date pudding. The fondant was pleasant, if possibly on the small side, but the sticky toffee pudding was dry and could have done with more sauce.
A combination of slow service and inadequate food did not make for the best visit to The Swan Inn, but it did get me thinking about the obstacles the hospitality industry has faced over the last three years. With the cost of living tightening its grip, venues should really be striving to the make the most of every visitor to ensure happy, and therefore repeat, customers. There were just three team members looking after the restaurant and garden area, and one of those having their lunch during this time, in full sight of the restaurant, probably did not help matters.
Having someone attentive and looking after the newest visitors certainly gave customers a warm feeling as they arrived, but that breaking down afterwards is something that really does need improvement in our opinion.
This visit was booked anonymously and the food and drink was paid for by the writer.
To make your reservation, visit www.theswan-mkvillage.co.uk