43 Linhope Street,
(020) 7724 6268
The ViewLondon Review
About the size of a Swan and Edgar matchbox, this diminutive pub exudes a warmth and charm that proves size really doesn’t matter. A star find in Marylebone.
Swan and Edgar is a short stroll from Marylebone station, although non-locals may get a little lost among the myriad of marble-fronted multimillion pound homes. You’d be forgiven for assuming that this little pub would fit in with the high end moneyed area, but walking up to its unassuming front down a quiet residential road to be greeted by
a simple hanging sign depicting a smartly dressed dog and swan, you may be surprised. Simple wooden benches sit outside on the street with smokers and summertime drinkers pointing to its exact location.
Stepping inside, you’ll be met with a room not much larger than the average living room; claustrophobics beware. However, what they’ve done to the space is extremely impressive, creating a charming, cosy hideaway that is in direct contrast to the pomp of the area. Tea stained walls look as if they’ve been covered in weathered parchment, a warming edge to the neutral colourscheme that works in the enclosed space to offer a homely appeal. Adourning the walls are imagery of the old Victorian Swan and Edgar department store in Piccadilly and the matchbox with which it shares a name. These pictures are framed in simple picture frames lined with large spotlights, turning them into showpieces. This works in conjunction with a simple mottled white ceiling and light wooden floors creating an air of space, aided by large windows lining the front of the building. Mirrors behind the small but adequate corner bar help to add to the illusion of more space than there is in reality.
So far, so ordinary. Where this pub really pulls it together are with some cleverly thought out, unique design touches that lift this from a warming local to a destination pub. The small bar sits upon row upon row of secondhand books, neatly lined up with the wooden bar atop. The books were all donated and have been well thumbed, now living out the rest of their lives as an impressive piece of interior design. This clever attention to detail is carried through to the handful of tables squeezed into the small space, pushed up against sofa-style seating that lines the periphery of the room. Created from Saville Row tailoring, sewn together as a patchwork of different materials, the seating is a talking point as opposed to just somewhere to park your derrier. Bringing the room together is the fact that every edge and corner is subtly covered in old Financial Times newspapering. There’s even an opulent ceiling design made out of the distinctive orange newspaper. A cute touch. Even the toilets are a design feature in that the floors are made up entirely of tiling. Not inventive? It is when you see that this tiling consists of Scabble tiles, hundreds of them neatly lined up in little rows.
Upstairs resides an as yet unfinished room with banquet seating for around 30 and an open fireplace for cosy dining on winter’s evenings, adding to the small space of the pub downstairs.
Swan and Edgar is a real locals pub, the kind that you wish you had at the end of your road. The staff are all known by name and many hail from its sister bar Bourne and Hollingsworth and really care about the group in which they work. Genuinely friendly and welcoming, all are made to feel at ease here, whether you’ve made the trip or live nearby. It helps to bring the cosy decor together, proving this isn’t just a case of style over substance. Sitting in a hugely upmarket area dominated by multimillion pound houses and marbles facades, it stands out like a beacon, offering something real.
The clientele is an eclectic mix but there’s a large contingent of local office workers making the most of this star in their midst. It’s definitely the kind of place you can get lost in for hours as dusk sets in outside the windows.
Traditional pub grub is the order of the day here, with none of the pomp of modern day gastropubs. The food is all homemade (Gordon Ramsay, take note) and it’s hearty; however, staid pub staples like fish and chips or lasagne are refreshingly absent. Instead, it’s a carefully thought out, balanced menu that delivers. Bar snacks like Cumberland cocktail sausages in honey (£5) and Scotch eggs (£3) are on offer if you fancy a snack.
A handful of starters cover the bases offering classic dishes like half a pint of freshwater prawns in homemade Marie Rose sauce (£5.50). The soup of the day (£4.50) such as a potato and celeriac soup is rustic, heavy and creamy - the kind of homemade soup that fills the belly and could act as a main all on its own. Full of flavour with a consistency that is thick and hearty, it’s accompanied by crusty homemade and slightly warm bread that’s a delicious example of what can come out of the kitchen. Equally excellent is the three cheese cherry tomato and spinach confit in a puff pastry pillow (£5). Again, the portion is on the large side and it’s a hefty starter that’s full of flavour. The puff pastry is light and flakes perfectly, filled with lashings of gooey warm cheese covering a handful of plump, sweet cherry tomatoes and spinach that melt in the mouth. Tasting like the world’s best cheese on toast, it’s a creamy, rich dish that is well balanced and heavy on flavour.
The mains are equally good and very well priced for the quality and portion sizes, with most coming in at well under a tenner. The sizes of the dishes mean you could happily just have a main course and leave pleasantly full. Sausage and mash (£9) is given a twist with wild boar sausages with a red onion jam on the side, and fish and chips is given an upgrade with the offering of roasted north sea cod with crushed new potatoes (£9).
The rosemary roasted rump of spring lamb with bubble and squeak (£12.50) is an excellent dish, ladened high with a large piece of perfectly pink lamb that runs with tender juices as you easily slice through the meat without needing a steak knife. The delicately sweet, tender lamb melts in the mouth. The bubble and squeak is light and full of flavour and a side of perfectly cooked baby carrots finishes each forkful off perfectly. Alternatively, the vegetarian dish of farmhouse vegetable risotto in a nest of balsamic rocket with shaved parmesan is an exquisite dish that proves what the kitchen can really do. The risotto is thick and creamy in consistency without being gloopy and the generous helping of parmesan shavings sprinkled atop it adds a richness to the already flavoursome risotto. Chunks of indiscernible vegetables run throughout adding texture and depth to the flavour. The balsamic rocket counteracts the heavy creaminess of the dish with fresh, crisp lettuce leaves with a delicately sweet aftertaste courtesy of the balsamic. An excellent dish.
Finally two desserts round off the menu. The apple and rhubarb crumble (£5) is well put together with a runny, creamy custard over the top of a crisp, sweetly tart crumble with generous chunks of apple counteracted by the soft rhubarb. For a big finish, the extremely well priced cheese board (£6) is worth a look as a dish on its own. Consisting of generous chunks of Shropshire blue, a creamy Somerset brie and Cornish Jarg cheese served with rustic homemade bread, an array of biscuits, tomato and chilli relish, red onion jam and apple and sultana chutney, it’s an impressive, hefty cheese board that puts to shame what you’ve seen before in terms of value for money and flavour, delivering on all counts.
Draught lagers come in the form of Asahi and Amstel at Swan and Edgar alongside a couple of ales. Pub staples of spirits and mixers are also well taken care of. However, where the pub really shines is its lengthy, well put together and extraordinarily well priced wine menu. Ranging from £14.50-£55, the quality bottles are well described to make your choice easier. Even the Champagnes are well priced, ranging from £35 for Esterlin Brut to £75 for an exquisite Ruinart Rose.
The house white, a Coldridge Estate Chardonnay from South Eastern Australia for just £14.50, is an incredible bottle for the price. Easy to drink without so much as a hint of a vinegary aftertaste that so often permeates cheap house bottles, it’s a highly recommended selection. Tropical fruit characters come through in each sip with a soft butterscotch finish that lingers on the tongue.
Also recommended are the dessert wines. The Beverford Gold Botrytis Semillion from Austrailia is just £3 for a glass of the golden liquid offers a delicate sweetness with a honey finish and gentle pineapple acidity. Alternatively, the Tokaji 5 Puttonyos (£5.50 a glass) is an unusual, unique dessert wine with apricot flavours and an almond finish with a sweetness like honey. An excellent wine.
The Last Word
Swan and Edgar is the kind of cosy haven you wish resided at the end of your road. As it is, if you’re not lucky enough to live in one of the megabucks houses nearby, it’s a destination venue that’s worth making the trip to Marylebone to seek out. A rare find for London; genuine, charming and unpretentious on all counts.
Swan and Edgar has been reviewed by 3 users