Malcolm Warne samples the recommended fayre of a once ‘scruffy old pub’

WE’RE grateful to those nonagenarian bon viveurs extraordinaire Geoff and Gloria Townsend for tipping us the wink about the Wild Swan.

We had heard about the scruffy old pub in Minskip, just the other side of the A1 from Boroughbridge, having been given a top-to-toe refurb, but nothing more until the Townsends passed on a hearty recommendation.

A recommendation well made on the strength of our early week lunchtime visit on the filthiest day imaginable. The sort of day when sensible folk decide to put off that pub lunch for another time and settle for soup and a sandwich in front of home fires a-burning.

Ever at your service and with a deadline looming, we are of course made of sterner stuff, so we braved the snow, sleet, hail and the gale-force wind to head down the A1.

We fully expected to walk into an empty pub but the dining room was almost full. One of the last tables they had was in a room separated from the main eating area and, most importantly that day, the large double-sided inglenook fire.

We decided to de-camp to the bar which had plenty of tables set for dining and a small area around the fire for drinking.

The transformation of the White Swan into its wild incarnation took place last year, carried out by the couple who have the Crown in the nearby village of Roecliffe. The Crown has long been regarded one of the best dining pubs in North Yorkshire and with prices to match. The Wild Swan appears to be a slightly less ambitious version.

But we liked the style of the place and the balance between the traditional pub feel and the more contemporary décor. Sage green walls throughout, stripped wood floors and ceiling beams, and tweedy upholstery give off a calming, relaxed vibe.

It calls itself a “Proper Yorkshire Pub” and that no-nonsense approach is reflected in the menu which is dominated by pub standards like steak and ale pie, calves liver and mash, and fish and chips, all around the £13 mark. For a few pounds more there were three fish specials on the day of our visit – lemon sole, sea bream and swordfish loin.

A bar menu offers some sharing options, including a Yorkshire Tapas selection featuring scotch egg and chicken liver parfait and an oriental meat platter of sweet soy belly pork, piri piri chicken, spicy fries, Asian salad and sweet chilli jam.

Also featured was a seafood tasting board – Sylvia’s choice as a starter (£7.95) – which was a pot of not particularly crisp and somewhat chewy calamari, some rather better scampi tails with a creamy and sharp tartare sauce, a teacup of prawn cocktail with a very pink tomato-y Marie Rose sauce and some top-notch skinny fries.

My starter, from the main menu, was roasted butternut squash risotto topped with crispy sage leaves and four queenie scallops (£7.20). The scallops were plump and soft but the risotto rather curious in lacking the traditional creaminess and instead being slightly nutty and al dente. The flavour was good though.

Sylvia was mightly impressed with her slow cooked lamb shoulder (£14.50)which had been cooked on the bone and then pulled off and reconstituted into an ice hockey puck-sized dome with an outer casing of crispy Parma ham. Beautifully moist and flaked flesh, she decreed it to be “very lamby”. There is no higher praise for sheepmeat.

It was served with golden Dauphinoise potato and a rich red wine jus.

My venison sausages (£13.25) were described as “local” on the menu but I’ve no idea what that meant. Why not say? Especially as they were rather good, close textured and very meaty.

There were three of them poking out of a light and fluffy Yorkshire pudding which in turn was parked on top of a mound of apple and black pudding mash circled with a rich gravy.

The mains were served with broccoli, kale and chantenay carrots

We were half tempted by dessert. Actually, we were very tempted by dessert. The tangy lemon clotted cream cheesecake sounded good but we really fancied sharing an apple tarte tatin (£6.50) baked with caramel and served with ice cream. Unfortunately, lots of other people had fancied it too and there was none left. It was clearly a sign that we didn’t need to stuff ourselves so we called it a day and settled our bill.

With a half pint of Black Sheep (£1.60) and a bottle of Peroni lager (£2.10) it came to £46.60. Not the cheapest of pub lunches but not a million miles away from the norm either.

The Wild Swan

Minskip, Boroughbridge, YO51 9JF

Tel: 01423-326334 Web:

Disabled access. Limited vegetarian options

Open for food: Lunch served noon-2.15pm, dinner served 5-9.15. Sunday lunch served noon-7pm


Food quality: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Surroundings: 9/10

Value: 8/10