Food speaks volumes at the Mute Swan: restaurant review
By Teddington People | Friday, April 04, 2014, 09:14
Walking into the newly refurbished Mute Swan - formerly Blubeckers - opposite Hampton Court, you just know General Manager Salim Morgan has already re-established it as the place to go. This wine-bar restaurant officially opened nearly a month ago but is already attracting a substantial local following.
Hendrick's cured salmon with cucumber and fennel salad, tonic jelly and cucumber sorbet.
Pan-fried king scallops accompanied by pea purée, crispy parma ham with a caper and herb dressing.
Spicy Vietnamese king prawn and rice noodle salad.
Baked fillet of hake with fennel confit, sautéed jerusalem artichoke and Pernod sauce.
Chocolate and hazelnut tart, salted caramel ice cream, lemon and passion fruit meringue and orange polenta cake.
As I walk in, I take in the curved bar on the ground floor which is smartly laid out - wooden floors, a mix of chic leather seating in the centre with elegant tables and chairs around the sides. The log burner in the fireplace adds to the already warm atmosphere. The place is buzzing - convivial without being too noisy.
My companion for the evening, a fan of his real ales, notes the wide selection of cask beers but as we are here for the food I rush him straight up the spiral staircase to the restaurant before we get distracted.
The spacious food area is already half full when we arrive despite the relatively early hour and we are greeted with the delicious smell of smoked fish which permeates the building.
Our waiter, Josh, who remains good-humoured and friendly throughout our meal, sits us down and allows us to peruse the menu. It is large and adventurous, making it a difficult one to choose from. Starters range from a saffron & lemon panna cotte to the pan-fried king scallops accompanied by pea purée, crispy parma ham with a caper and herb dressing that I choose. My friend opts for the Hendrick's cured salmon with cucumber and fennel salad, tonic jelly and cucumber sorbet which certainly sounds like it will kick-start his taste buds.
For our mains we eventually choose the baked fillet of hake with fennel confit, sautéed jerusalem artichoke and Pernod sauce and the spicy Vietnamese king prawn and rice noodle salad. For wine Josh recommends the Riverstone Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, its gooseberry and citrus overtones proving to be the perfect partner throughout the meal.
As I write about my starter now, it occurs to me that one of the main themes running through the menu is textures, making the food more exciting and interesting. Flavours are also important but my succulent scallops are offset perfectly by the crispy parma ham, and the hint of mint in the al dente pea puree provides a refreshing accompaniment.
My friend describes his salmon starter as deliciously textured, with all the ingredients - the Hendrick's, the tonic, the cucumber - livening up his appetite and preparing him for his main course. And, once we move on mains, he describes his Asian salad as refreshingly light, the subtle heat from the chilli dressing building pleasingly as he eats, the cashew nuts providing a crunchy counterpoint to the soft noodles. My hake fillet is meltingly soft, perfectly cooked and conspires well with the Pernod, jerusalem artichokes and samphire to create a subtle yet hearty meal.
And then, thanks to the seamless service, we are onto dessert. To get over the difficult choices we've made all evening, we opt for the pudding plate - an assortment of desserts on the menu including chocolate and hazelnut tart, salted caramel ice cream, lemon and passion fruit meringue and orange polenta cake.
Certainly the portions are just right to leave you feeling like you've had a good try of each pudding. Contrasting textures come across strongly again with the chocolate and hazelnut tart just the right mixture of brittle topping and velvety, rich interior. The meringue, with the addition of the passion fruit seeds near the base, is given an interesting crackly twist I hadn't anticipated. If I had to choose a favourite out of this delicious, decadent assortment, it would have to be the orange polenta cake which was light, zesty and rounded off the other desserts nicely. My friend did regret not taking Josh’s advice and having a whole portion of the chocolate tart as he thought it was stunning and is now after the recipe!
And so we reached the end of our meal VERY satisfied with what we'd eaten. The waiting staff were helpful, knowledgable and attentive, the restaurant relaxed but vibrant. This is certainly one restaurant I'd visit again if only to work my way through that extensive menu and wine list. With food this good this is one Swan that won't stay Mute for too long.