Weary travellers have been recharging their batteries at The Swan Hotel since its days as a coaching inn in the 15th century. Now part of the Best Western group, it attracts a well-heeled clientele of international travellers, and many of them can be found in the hotel’s dining room, which since the start of summer has been known as 15c A.D.
Open to all-comers, the restaurant offers non-residents a chance to experience the substantial charm of this beautiful medieval hotel. Oak panelled walls, plum velvet high-backed chairs, dimly lit chandeliers and a liberal sprinkling of gilt-framed pictures of swans give the restaurant a stately and opulent air. This is reinforced by the crisply suited, black clad waiting staff whose efficiency is matched only by their friendliness.
Head chef Leigh Say’s menu makes the most of Somerset producers and has been awarded two AA rosettes for the last four years running. It is described as traditional and modern British cuisine, but Say’s three years of training in oriental cooking also shines through (do try the breast of Gressingham duck accompanied by a spring roll, bok choi, peach and shimeji mushrooms). Say’s presentation is intricate and flawless and the portions are generous, especially for the mains and – hooray! – the puddings. An espresso parfait with pecan caramel brittle comes with an unannounced but very welcome taster of dark chocolate and raspberry tart on the side.
Those into delayed gratification may want to visit in the spring (or wait for a sunny autumnal day) to eat al fresco on the Swan Terrace, which looks directly onto the magnificent western facade of Wells Cathedral, though the interior’s warmth makes it an elegant winter retreat too.