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The Swan With Two Nicks Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield thinks it could be so much bettter

Written by . Published on November 6th 2013.

The Swan With Two Nicks Reviewed

Category: Pubs with food. Score 10.5/20 (Full breakdown below and score explained. Venues are compared with similar venues and measured against the best examples in their category.)

 I MISINTERPRETED the name Swan with Two Nicks as a command. So I went with two friends called Nick. 

To separate them in your mind dear reader I'll call the first one Nick and the second one Nick. That should make it easier.

It shouldn't be too difficult to make these dishes feel fresh and loved. For God's sake how hard can it be to cook chips? 

"Why are we going to this pub-with-food type place?" said Nick.

"It's on the route of one of the classic south Manchester walks. Bridgewater Canal tow-path from Altrincham, the ineffable, delightful, lanquid beauty of Dunham Massey deer park, mud, and then pub grub," I explained. "Or you can ditch the walk and just drive there. Or park at Dunham and scoot down."

Swan with Two Nicks

Swan with Two Nicks

The Swan with Two Nicks is about as well-known as pubs get in this neck of the woods. It's a perfect pensioner or toddler stroll from Dunham Massey Hall and garden. Far enough away to justify the expression 'going for a walk' and close enough to crawl back should you decide to sink all the pub's whisky range.

Because of this fortunate coincidence of geography it's done what all country pubs have done and sought lebensraum.

Over the last few decades any associated buildings nearby have been tacked on and colonised, dining halls added, outdoor decking areas assembled, car parks and courtyards marshalled. Country pub imperialism is happening all over the country which is a good thing as the alternative is pubs becoming boarded up.

The expansion of the Swan with Two Nicks disguises the pretty brick original building. Go through the front door here and you sigh. It's lovely. Tidsy spaces made pleasant with real fires, newspapers, soft seating and people scattered among the dogs.

"Lots of dogs," said Nick starting to count.

"It's like one of those 70s prints of dogs having a pint and playing pool," said Nick. 

The Games Room At The Swan With Two Nicks Was Always Busy With The Dogs In Pubs Rights Audience


The games room at the Swan with Two Nicks was always busy with The Dogs In Pubs Rights audience

They were right.

This is a 'dog-friendly' pub which gives The Swan with Two Nicks an expanded audience of nice middling people who purchase guide books by the dozen detailing 'pug-friendly pubs in GB' and then drive half across the nation to use them - as though they and their pets are an oppressed minority making a point about canine rights. Let's hear it for the poodles pushed into the cold, the Yorkie left in the yard.

Here's a website so you can find your local pooch loving environment.

The Nicks and I sat in one of the colonised dining spaces and picked up the menu. A lady who shall henceforth be named the Sergeant Major asked us whether we were ready to order. 

It was two thirty in the afternoon and maybe she was in a rush but even the speediest decision makers need more than forty seconds. We ordered drinks, Moorhouse ales all round, White Witch I believe, very good. 

The menu goes on a bitThe menu goes on a bitWe turned to look back at the menu which is a slightly longer document than the Old Testament supplemented by blackboards featuring other items. Lots of them. Within a minute Sergeant Major was back asking if we were ready to order. This happened three times in an emptyish room. The woman was clearly in a rush which was odd as food was served all day.

I had the plaice with a herb oil (£13.95), Nick had 'The Swan with Two Nicks Famous Cheese And Onion Pie' ( lots of mature cheddar apparently for £9.95). Nick, who wasn't hungry, just had a starter of whitebait (£5.95).

Pie of yellowness

Pie of yellowness

None of the food need detain us long.

It was never better than average but then with so many choices on the menu focus was bound to be blurred. My plaice was overdone, claggy, the herb oil thing was hopelessly ill-matched to the fish. It was too Mediterranean for a traditional pub, too like a  pesto and was simply unpleasant and domineering.

"My cheese and onion pie smells of dog," said Nick, sniffing at it, and looking like a sad Bloodhound.

"I think that's auto-suggestion because you've just seen the front rooms of the pub," I said. 

"Maybe there's a species of dog called the Chedder Setter or something?" said Nick. 

"Maybe this is 'famous' as it says on the menu, because it's such a beige/yellow dish. It's the most beige/yellow dish in the world."

He paused.

"It fills you up is the best that can be said," said Nick, saying it. 

The whitebait were miserable dead things, deader than need be. The chips were flabby, the veg as colourless as the rest. 

We cheered up with a gorgeous Dunham Massey ice cream (three scoops for £4.95), the honeycomb was a real joy. Forget the rest of the tired grub and go straight to the ices.

Fabulous ice cream

Fabulous ice cream

We didn't stay longer than it took to knock the beers back and bugger off. 

"That's what lets us down," said Nick. "Over the last decade or so UK food has leapt in quality. But then you come to a pub with a huge captive audience and the food is stuck in some transport cafe mentality of 1956 except they've given the dishes posher descriptions. It shouldn't be too difficult to make these dishes feel fresh and loved. For God's sake how hard can it be to cook chips? How hard can it be for the Sergeant Major to smile?"

And that was that. (It should be noted that the other staff were fine.)

As we wandered through Dunham Massey park we eyed the fallow deer hungrily. 

"This is a deer-friendly park," said Nick.

"Yes, people bring their deer from miles around to feed them up," said Nick.

Deer Friendly Dunham

Deer friendly Dunham

"By the way, turns out the name Swan with Two Nicks doesn't refer to the name Nicholas at all," I said

"Really," said Nick feigning interest. 

"It refers to some medieval practice of marking swans to prove ownership," I said. "I researched that on their website via smart phone two minutes ago."

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+


The Swan with Two Nicks, Park Lane, Little Bollington, Altrincham, Greater Manchester. 0161 928 2914.

Rating: 10.5/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below - so in this instance we're talking Pub casual dining)

Food: 4.5/10 (whitebait 3, plaice 6, cheese and onion pie 4, veg 4, chips 3, ice cream 7.5)
Service: 3/5 (but only because of the other staff not the Sergeant Major)
Ambience: 3/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Inside the dining roomInside the dining room

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16 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Paul BradleyNovember 6th 2013.

Think the food score might be wrong - 10.5 / 10?

AnonymousNovember 6th 2013.

Why is it also rated against the best example of a Greek casual dining venue?

EditorialNovember 6th 2013.

Changed. On both accounts. Thanks.

paulsouthernNovember 7th 2013.

ah doggiepubs, very disappointed!

Fran MartinNovember 7th 2013.

i really like it there

David SafiruddinNovember 7th 2013.

The Jolly thresher at Agden (en route to Lymm ) is a much better alternative great beer ,great food with a lovely garden .

AnonymousNovember 7th 2013.

It's true- such a shame that the food in this place is so awful. We never eat there anymore but still persist in using it for the above mentioned beer after short walk from Dunham with small children. Although that will probably stop too as my kids now call it the stinky pub- have you tried sitting outside? Very unpleasant ( and not in a 'countryside' way)...

QuokkaNovember 7th 2013.

I agree with most of this. Visited once in late summer and had a simple fish and chips. The portion was so small I could easily have had a second meal. My companion had a pie of some sort which came with chips. She was served twice as many chips as me. Too inconsistent, not enough quality. We wont ever go back.

AnonymousNovember 7th 2013.

They have also got a serious problem with their drains as you will be sure to note if you venture on to the decked terrace. I was seriously disturbed to see families enjoying mediocre food 'al fresco' whilst engulfed by the stench of human excrement

AnonymousNovember 7th 2013.

I thought this was a review for that version of swan lake for the gays that's on now. I misread the N for a D.

AnonymousNovember 7th 2013.

Always great beer though if you only want to visit the pub for a drink. To really appreciate this pub you need a time machine to take you back to 1970 and choose any Sunday in November, about 1.45 (a quarter hour before closing time) - what an atmosphere! Like many other pubs of this type it has grown and grown, put food on and become a victim of its own success. The alternative? Perhaps closure. Please don't write it off just yet

Ann Stapleton-AmphlettNovember 8th 2013.

Traditional pub, not many left these days thanks to the rush for gastro Pubs, cant be doing that bad as fully booked for Christmas and a firm favourite with many, always full at weekends and need to book to get in on a sunday.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Richard AthertonNovember 8th 2013.

...said the Owner/Close friend. Ha!

martin0475November 8th 2013.

surely thye owner is entitled to stand up for herself Richard,people like you piss me right off and spoil these rant pages

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 9th 2013.

I'd like to know who the Sergeant Major was haha surely not the manager?……

Mike WDecember 7th 2013.

Visit the original swan with two necks www.swanwithtwonecks.co.uk/… not to far to drive of an afternoon. ;)

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