A pub that doesn’t serve bitter, that has no written wine list, and where the chef advises against ordering the steak might not seem like the best of starts. Despite this, Swan & Edgar is a delightful place. The real ale (unspecified) was ‘on its way’; they have two handpumps installed. The wine list is brief – less than a score of wines – and still only verbal at this stage. And the steak? They weren’t happy with the quality the previous night, so were thinking of switching supplier. At least they warned us.
Swan & Edgar is tucked down a quiet residential backstreet in Marylebone. Yet it’s easy to spot because of the outdoor tables and long, filled bookshelf fixed a few feet over the entrance. Inside, the bar’s constructed of old paperbacks, candles burn on the small tables, and an iPod was playing Tracy Chapman on our visit. On tap were two lagers, Amstel and Asahi; we settled for an Argetinian merlot at £15.
The single-sheet menu comprises classic pub dishes from a scotch egg through a good-looking cheeseboard to bread and butter pudding with custard. Our roasted cod was two generous portions laid over crushed new potatoes, with a light cream and mustard sauce, at £9. A better cook would either have seared the skin to crisp it and cooked it until the flesh was just translucent, or served it without the skin if it were to be poached or cooked in a moist medium. The sauce lacked direction – it resembled just a bit of cream and mustard (not a proper sauce at all), and too much of it. The wild boar and apple sausages were good quality, if a little dry, which is what happens when you use a high proportion of meat. The accompanying mash was lumpy and underseasoned, the Bisto-like gravy slightly thin, but again, fair value. Ingredient quality is perhaps the strongest point, from the Melton Mowbray pies to the Wiltshire ham.
The bar’s so intimate that by the end of the evening we’d worked out the bar staff’s names, and even learned snippets about their lives. Mark also runs the Bourne & Hollingsworth bar in Fitzrovia; the blonde barmaid Anya is clearly a good friend. And the woman with the Morningside accent (listen carefully, you’ll just hear it) is Andria. There – no further introductions needed. Just pop round anytime for a Pimm’s, G&T, or glass or decent wine.