TURBOT two ways and a journey to the source explain what makes the tasting menu tick at the North West’s newest Michelin star restaurant. We make no apologies for straying outside Manchester to reflect on a remarkable food and drink achievement.
We reviewed twentysomething Tom Parker’s food at the White Swan at Fence 20 months ago – just after his profile had been raised by an appearance on BBC2‘s Great British Menu.
A lot has happened since then. Tom, a former ‘Young Chef of the Year, is still not 30 but now boasts a Michelin star at this grey stone village pub outside Burnley. Only two other Lancashire establishments share this honour – Northcote at Langho (where Tom trained) and two-starred Moor Hall near Ormskirk. Neither of which are a Timothy Taylor tied house like the homely 40-cover Swan.
It’s not the easiest place to get to on public transport, so we drove. Hence a pint of Taylor’s Boltmaker was the sensible choice to accompany the £55 five course menu. En route we had dropped in on Wellgate Fisheries, Clitheroe, which supplies both The White Swan and UK Top Three Gastropub The Freemasons at Wiswell with outstanding fish.
We had admired some glorious looking whole wild turbot in the shop and hoped it would be on at the Swan. It was, just as on our last visit. Then it had come with scattering of morel mushrooms, thin coins of kohlrabi and a frothy hazelnut noisette sauce (main image).
This time (above) with a different mushroom and a parsley and sorrel flecked butter sauce that we scooped up every drop of. Each course came with a spoon, so you can properly clear the bowl. Each dish is simply layered, no flouncy garnish, each element to the flavourful point.
As we reported in our original five star review: “What struck us was the artful simplicity underpinned by prodigious technique, no muddling of flavours.”
You can lunch off a set menu of £25 for two courses, £32 for three, but there are supplements for individual dishes (a tenner for the roasted calves’ sweetbread), so we’d recommend that tasting menu, which on the day included those sweetbreads on a curried onion fondue with parsnip and coriander. In a light batter those second course sweetbreads were among the best we’ve ever tasted, maybe the curry was too assertive.
We expected a strong flavour with the first course, but the advertised English wasabi was glorious match for a tranche of organic salmon belly – served mi cuit, ie gently cured. Frozen dill buttermilk and apple contributed to the dish’s sublime freshness.
Tom’s seasonally sensitive short menus respond to the market each day, so for turbot it could have read gigha halibut and our fourth course might well have been venison or partridge. Instead it was perfectly pitched duck cooked pink with a slick of celeriac puree and pickled red cabbage.
Fanciest dish came last – a deconstructed (as they say, Tom doesn’t) tiramisu with a disc of Cluizel chocolate and a delicate mess of banana chunks and parfait with a sticky coffee caramel. Homely and decadent at the same time. Much like the White Swan That Soars.
The White Swan, 300 Wheatley Lane Road, Fence, Burnley BB12 9QA. 01282 611773.