Unlike the other eateries reviewed so far on The Picky Glutton, Dean Swift isn’t a traditional restaurant but a gastropub. Distinguishing a gastropub from any other kind of pub or a restaurant is tricky since a gastropub has elements of both, so it tends to be a case of ‘I’ll know when I see it’. Dean Swift is certainly a gastropub. There’s SkyTV, a well-stocked bar and standing space for a drink and a chat, but there are also a few dining tables (with a dedicated second floor devoted to dining coming soon) as well as a menu with daily specials that goes beyond the usual pub staples of burgers, pies and omelettes.
It’s highly unlikely you would stumble across Dean Swift accidentally as it’s located on a residential side street just east of Tower Bridge on the south bank of the Thames. It’s the Euro Hedgie’s local and the place was surprisingly full on the Wednesday night we went, with a friendly local crowd consisting mainly of well-heeled students and other euro hedgies. Of course, there was also the occasional middle-aged man nursing a pint and a black top tabloid – seemingly ubiquitous no matter which pub in England you go to.
Although Dean Swift is tastefully decorated, it’s not going to win any awards for interior design originality. Chandeliers and brass lighting fixtures cast a warm light over white walls decorated with vintage beer ads. The well-appointed and spotlessly clean toilets do deserve a special mention though – they put the facilities in far pricier restaurants and private members clubs to shame.
While I stuck to my usual glass of Diet Coke, the Euro Hedgie opted for a pint of Maisel’s Weisse, a Bavarian brew. He greatly enjoyed the fruity taste, describing it as ‘banoffee-like’ due to the sweet tang hitting the back of the throat.
If I was a drinker, or if the Euro Hedgie hadn’t had such a heavy one the night before, he would’ve opted for one of the many sharing-size bottles of beer (around the size of a bottle of wine) available. There are around a dozen choices costing an average of £10 each. From his previous visits, the Euro Hedgie generally favours the Belgian Trappist Chimay Grande Réserve, Duvel, the Belgian blonde La Chouffe or one of the American craft beers which are apparently tricky to find in London.
When it came to the food itself, I was tempted by both the goat curry from the standard menu and the braised venison on the daily specials blackboard. Since this was my first visit, I opted for the goat curry based on the idea that it would be harder to screw up than the venison.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the goat curry but I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike previous goat dishes I’ve had which have been indistinguishable from lamb, the meat here had a slight earthy taste which immediately set it apart from lamb. It was tender too, but not too dry from overcooking. The mild sauce is not spicy in the slightest, but it did have a delicate sweetness to it, probably from sultanas or another similar fruit, giving it a tagine-like taste. Although there wasn’t a huge amount of rice, it was enough to soak up the left-over sauce and I’d rather more meat than rice than the other way around.
Given his recent hard living, the Euro Hedgie decided to have a light meal. For most people, this would probably mean going for the Cobb salad or the soup of the day. In the Hedgie’s case, a ‘light’ dish was a chicken and bacon sandwich which comes with a large pot of chunky chips.
The meat in the sandwich was filling but unremarkable. What livened it up was the slightly sweet taste of the fluffy ciabatta-like bread and the liberal amount of wheat beer mayonnaise which had a very distinctive flavour all of its own. It’s hard to describe how the mayo tastes, but I’d describe it as almost malt-like. The chunky chips don’t have a crispy exterior, but they do have satisifyingly fluffy insides and are very thickly cut. They’re almost wedge-shaped and some still have bits of skin attached.
Since I don’t drink alcohol, I’m reviewing Dean Swift purely on the basis of its food which, ironically, makes it more tricky. While the food is perfectly satisfactory and filling, it would be unremarkable and slightly overpriced if it wasn’t for a handful of standout elements, such as the wheat beer mayonnaise in the chicken and bacon ciabatta.
Tempted as I am to give it four stars, for now it only deserves three stars. However, Dean Swift clearly has much potential and if I’m in the area again, I’ll certainly be giving it another go.
Name: Dean Swift
Address: 32 Lafone Street, London, SE1 2LX
Phone: 020 7357 0748
Opening Hours: Kitchen - Everyday: 12.00 – 21.00. Bar - Sunday to Thursday: 12.00 – 00.00, Friday & Saturday: 12.00 – 01.00.
Total cost for one person including drink but excluding side dishes and dessert: £10-14 approx.
Updated 20/2/2011 – new star rating graphic added