14th February. A date that typically fills me with dread. All I knew was that The Chap was taking me to lunch. I didn’t even know where.
Hopefully that will explain why I started to feel anxious as he laughingly told me we were heading for the McDonalds on the A47 beyond Swaffham. It wasn’t until we started out in the opposite direction that I started to relax.
I felt positively relieved as we drove through Wroxham and took the road to Sea Palling and I thought that maybe we were going to the seaside for fish and chips. But, just when I thought I’d figured it out, we took off towards Ingham – and stopped outside The Ingham Swan – a pub that I had heard many good things about.
As we parked on the road outside the pub (the car park was rammed) and made our way to the bar, I was grinning like an idiot, to say the least. I know it sounds cheesy, but I’m so glad The Chap knows that good food makes me happy.
Mains made in heaven
Although we were a tad early for our meal, we were made to feel very welcome and took our drinks to the small lounge area while we waited for our table.
As we sat there and soaked up the atmosphere we were presented with plump green olives and slightly spicy fried broad beans, which helped take the edge off our appetites (and stopped us from ordering everything on the menu).
Just five minutes later, we were shown to our table, deliciously close the the fire, and settled down to order our meals. The room was cosy and warm, with exposed beams and wooden floors, light streaming in through the huge windows and the conversation of other diners burbling away in the background.
I eventually opted for sea bream on the á la carte menu, which was served with sausage, creamed leeks, spinach, saffron cocotte potatoes and shrimp beurre blanc. The Chap ordered from the Lunch du Jour menu and selected crackling pork belly with sprouting broccoli, buttered curly kale, cocotte potatoes and roasted onion.
A few moments later we were presented with a mushroom and toasted pinenut amuse bouche with soft bread rolls. The rich, flavoursome soup was punctuated by the sweet, toasted nuts, while the bread was doughy and fresh. I know it was only a palate cleanser, but I could happily eat that every day!
Our meals arrived shortly after and, as you can see, they were beautifully presented. Needless to say, they tasted as good as they looked. The fish was perfectly cooked and melted in the mouth, with a delicate flavour and was divine when paired with the rich, salted, slightly crispy slices of sausage. The leeks were al dente and delicately creamed, while the spinach was just wilted, maintaining a little bite. I was torn between inhaling and savouring the dish.
And The Chap’s pork belly… Well… It was honestly the best I’ve ever tasted. Tender, lightly crisped, flavoursome, with the fat perfectly rendered. It was amazing. You won’t be surprised that I didn’t get to try more than one mouthful!
We’d already had a plenty to eat by this point, but we couldn’t resist having a pudding anyway. Again, I picked from the á la carte menu and ordered the rhubarb slice while The Chap opted for the lemon and raspberry Bakewell tart from the Lunch du Jour.
I was blown away by my rhubarb slice when it came out – it was so pretty! A pink rhubarb gel sat above a creamy custard atop a slice of light sponge, surrounded by rhubarb coulis, pistachio ‘snow’ and rhubarb sorbet.
The creamy custard perfectly countered the tart rhubarb gel, the crunchy crushed pistachio added texture, while the sorbet refreshed the palate. It made me wish that I could learn to cook like that (the reason I can’t is that I would never get to the table without eating key components of the dish).
The Bakewell, served with raspberry sorbet, was slightly warm and delightfully moist while remaining light and fluffy. Again The Chap wouldn’t share more than one forkful, but I can understand why!
I’m sure you’ve got the picture by now – we had a thoroughly pleasurable time – but I couldn’t sign off without saying that the waiting staff were absolutely lovely – attentive and chatty but not overbearing. There are lots of restaurants that could learn a thing or two from lunch at The Ingham Swan.
The two-course Lunch du Jour meal was an amazing £16.50, while my sea bream cost £19.50 and the rhubarb slice was £6.95. Although it was more than I would usually spend on lunch, it was a special occasion and the whole experience was so good that it was well worth the money.