A new name and a new chef at Great Shefford
It is always very exciting when a new ’top’ chef comes to town – especially when coupled with a charismatic impresario-type figure at the helm of a once struggling pub.
The Swan Inn has had a make-over and has a new name – The Great Shefford – which is, unsurprisingly, in Great Shefford just off the M4.
It is the jewel in the crown for independent restaurateur Joshua Khan.
The new chef is Sam Cary – formerly of Malmesbury’s Whatley Manor, and Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers.
But what makes this gastro pub stand out amongst others on the Great West Way foodie route are the prices.
The prices are standard pub food prices, but the food is top end restaurant quality.
You take a look at the interesting, and in-part utterly intriguing menu, (the pink peppercorn and lime Pavlova stands out from the get go!), and cast an eye to the price list, and wonder if the food is going to live up to the promise.
It does. And more.
Owner Joshua Kahn now has three pubs and three restaurants to his name including the King Charles Tavern in Newbury and The Broad Face Abingdon.
He said he feels like Alex Ferguson did when David Beckham made it onto his teamsheet after persuading one of the UK’s most highly-rated chefs to run its kitchen.
“Having Sam now lead the kitchen at The Great Shefford makes me feel like Alex Ferguson when he signed David Beckham! We are delighted to welcome him to the kitchen and are excited about what he brings to The Great Shefford.”
Sam says he is delighted to get the keys to the kitchen, and after just one week at the stove, he is already making his mark with some exceptional signature dishes.
“This is very exciting for me,” said Sam in a brief table visit during service this week. “This is much more my style here, more relaxed country pub.”
He is already refining the fine dining offer with some very ‘chef-y’ processes. The pork chop option (£18.95) was full of surprises, least the fact that the meat did not actually come in the shape of a chop, but had been expertly carved instead.
But the ‘chef-y’ genius emerged when he explained that the beetroot on top of the tender, sliced meat has been cooked for 12 hours.
Reacting to my obvious incredulity that a beetroot could survive such intrusion, he explained he had cooked it ’sous vide’, which, for any fans of Masterchef will know, is a process by which the item is vacuum packed in a bag and effectively poached for many hours to retain and boost the natural flavours.
My magnificent beetroot was also enhanced with ’some spices, and a bit of messing around with it!’ according to the very charming Sam and his hipster good looks.
The attention to detail is clear, as is the effort made to source good produce. The burrata with shaved fennel and roasted seeds (£7.95) was light, fresh and beautifully presented, which is hard for a round, soft cheese really.
The portions are also decent, keeping in with the pub side of things rather than the fancy restaurant end of the business. Well sized, but not so big there is no room for pudding.
The Great Shefford nestles the River Lambourne and has a refurbed riverside terrace, a wood burning fire, a private-dining annexe – which is already proving so popular it gets booked up weeks in advance, a great wine list, and an excellent range of spirits (gins in particular).
“We really wanted to have that country pub feel to the place,” said Joshua, who’s enthusiasm and energy provides a glimpse of an old fashioned bon viveur who would entertain for hours.
In fact, his own life story is fascinating, having come to this country penniless from Siberia more than 20 years ago.
He is bubbling about the decor, hand-picked and in some cases hand designed to create a country pub ambience. There are hunting scenes on the wallpaper, fishing and shooting pictures, and a fair bit of racing memorabilia in a nod to the racing crowd he hopes to attract.
“As this is the Valley of the Racehorse, we’ve set aside a special area of welcome for those who want to keep their eyes on events on the turf in our dedicated Racing Lounge, with wide-screen TV and up-to-date editions of the sporting press