Tony Rowen discovers The Old Swan is once again in full flight
IT is customary to be asked what you would like when entering a pub, but Paul Dexter and Keith Goddard went a step further when they took over The Old Swan on The Square in Earls Barton two and a half years ago.
Paul, who had previously worked in retail and Keith, who worked as a social care manager, took the bold decision to buy The Old Swan and transform it into a community pub run by locals for the locals.
It was a bold move because, prior to his buying it, the pub had a poor reputation and had closed. But Paul, Keith and the team had a plan. Before opening it they asked the locals what they wanted in a pub, what drinks they wanted, what food they wanted to eat and what type of events and entertainment they would like, and also carried out a refurbishment programme to the bars, kitchen and garden. This is ongoing with further work planned including a new floor, seating and lights for the back bar and re-thatching the roof.
They got a positive response and today The Old Swan is a thriving community, family-friendly pub serving drinks, food and entertainment to the residents of Earls Barton and attracting people from further afield as well, with local being very much the watchword in terms of staff, drinks and food.
Anita and I discovered this on our recent visit. The back bar was heaving with people watching a live Champions League match, while the front bar was occupied by drinkers and diners.
Paul's years in retail were clearly evident as on our table was a small personalised blackboard and easel welcoming us to The Old Swan and hoping we would enjoy our meals.
The menu is split into various sections - starters, mains and desserts as well as specials, from the grill, snacks and a 'little people' section. There are five starter choices, mains options are defined as classics, from the sea and vegetarian while there are seven desserts on offer.
For starters I chose the soup (vegetable) served with warm ciabatta and Anita went for the hot and spicy chicken wings served with a sweet chilli dip and fresh salad garnish, followed by pan-fried lamb's liver served with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a rich gravy for me and vegetable lasagne served with fresh salad, balsamic sauce and chips for Anita.
We chose well. The soup was hot and tasty, the chicken wings were, indeed hot and spicy, the liver was cooked to perfection and the lasagne was packed with vegetables and had a pleasing bite.
Make sure you are hungry when you visit The Old Swan. The portions are generous, so much so that we had to miss out on the tempting desserts.
The community spirit extends beyond the pub with charity events, sponsorship of the local cricket and women's football teams.
It is fair to say Paul and his team have completely expunged The Old Swan's previous reputation. Today it really is at the heart of the village and the locals have responded to his enterprise and enthusiasm by supporting it to the full.
Food is served Monday to Saturday 12 noon to 8pm and on Sunday from 12 noon to 5pm. Booking is advised for Sunday lunch, and the pub also offers a delivery or collection service for those who want to eat at home.
The pub is open 12 noon to 11pm Monday to Thursday and Sunday, and from noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Quiz Night - Every other Monday at 8pm.
Maximum six per team. £1 per person. Cash prize for winners and picking the right key. Nibbles
Free Port and Cheese - Every Tuesday from 9pm
Ladies Night - Every Wednesday 7pm to 11pm Any double gin and tonic or 20cl bottle of Prosecco Pink or White for £4.95
Tapas Night - Every Thursday 5pm to 8pm
Choice of three tapas dishes with a basket of crusty bread, a bowl of mixed olives and a glass of Rioja for £15.95 per person
Live Music - Saturday Nights
A varied programme of live music with local bands
See website for details
Sunday Roast - 12 noon to 5pm
A fine Sunday roast dinner. Takeaway service available. Booking essential