THE White Swan is a traditional, low-ceilinged, stone-flagged country inn with a roaringly warm woodburner and guest rooms out the back in the old stables.

It is in Gilling West, down an ear-popping bank from the A66 near Scotch Corner, and now of course it is reduced to being a temporary takeaway.

A line of chairs prevented us from entering the dark and intriguing rooms of the restaurant, so we lingered momentarily in the bar, leaning on a chest-high drinking table next to an empty fireplace, waiting to collect our order. Before we’d had time to make eye contact with the tall chap behind us, who’d stooped low to avoid banging his bonce on the lintel, it was ready, handed over bang on time in two plain brown bags, and we were gone, back into the cold night…

It is a strange and lonely world in which we live in at the moment, each person masked into their own sanitary bubble, eating inside the walls of their own homes.

The Northern Echo:

Given the traditional feel of the White Swan, its website promoting its Burgers & Beers takeaways is a shock. Alongside the traditionally tempting photographs of juicy roasts, succulent cuts and burning stoves is a menu with neon purple lettering and dayglo green icons. The funky names of the burgers jump shockingly out at the viewer from the black background.

But what an imaginative menu it is! Who knew burgers could come in so many tastes and ingredients?

Even in non-Covid times, the Swan specialises in burgers which are made in its onsite butchery from meat from the Tunstall Meat Company in nearby Richmond.

For meat-eaters, the Swan offers three types of six ounce beef burgers, a harissa lamb burger which comes with bacon and blue cheese, and a madras chicken burger.

There are three vegetarian burgers, and for pescatarians, there’s the Codzilla, a fish fillet burger, and, extraordinarily, The Last Bastion, a lobster burger. How I would love to have experimented with a lobster burger, but sadly my days of eating shellfish with gay abandon are behind me – I can still tolerate prawns, but too many dodgy Northumberland crab sandwiches have created a violent allergy; a farewell pot of cockles and mussels on the harbourside at Whitby will make an unwelcome return before we have even reached the moors on the journey home.

I therefore played safe, and went for a Miami Heat – a beef burger with chilli guacamole and a fried egg.

The Northern Echo:

Each burger on the menu has been paired with a £2.50 bottle of craft ale to complement it, but we’re not really beery people, so we stuck to the £10 burgers.

Theo, my son, had a Big Smoke – a beef burger with bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce – whereas my wife, Petra, and daughter Genevieve, chose vegetarian options: the Shroom Trip, which was Portobello mushrooms with blue cheese, and the Spicey Bean Burger.

Perhaps the most successful was the most traditional: the Big Smoke was a tasty burger with a goodly waft of barbecue smoke enhanced by the bacon and cheese. The Bean Burger was also very good, with a crispy outside and a tender middle.

I enjoyed my Miami Heat: the guacamole and the fried egg lending a smooth taste to the burger. I don’t like things too hot – the madras chicken burger was not an option for me – but there was only the merest hint of heat in the Miami and I expected a little more.

The mushroom burger was tasty and as described: field mushrooms with blue cheese on top.

The burgers were served in a brioche bun – with the fried egg adding extra moisture, mine became structurally unstable as the meal wore on – and accompanied by a good portion of skin-on chips and a little pot of controversial slaw. It was shredded cabbage, carrot, onion and even a sliver of tomato, but we could detect no dressing and certainly no mayo – it was a naked slaw, but it added a good crunch.

To finish, there were four cheesecakes and two pies. At £3-a-slice, they could not be argued with: the strawberry swirl cheesecake had plenty of fruit topping; the lemon meringue pie was tart with a caramelised meringue and the Mississippi Chocolate Fudge Pie had a lovely sticky topping.

The Northern Echo:

The food was all packed in recyclable cardboard boxes.

So £13-a-head for a homemade and individualistic burger, which comes close to fulfilling the imaginative descriptions on the dayglo menu, plus chips and dessert – a pretty good offering for our unconventional times from this traditional Yorkshire pub.

The White Swan, High Street, Gilling West, Richmond DL10 5JG

Phone: 01748-825122


Food quality: 7

Covid security: 8

Takeaway logistics: 8

Value for money: 8