Carol Godsmark reviews: The White Swan, Bosham

The White Swan, Bosham.
The White Swan, Bosham.
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Bosham has no shortage of pubs thanks to its glorious waterside location.

The foreshore road in the old, picturesque part of this community, may flood at high tide and parked cars are sometimes submerged.

Once, visiting one water’s-edge pub for the first time, I parked the car by the pub wall and enjoyed a meal with friends. But the water rose and the only way to reclaim the car was to climb over the wall on to the car’s roof, slip into the driver’s seat and drive off before the sea claimed it.

Flooding doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. The White Swan, on the old A27 which bisects the village, has flooded in recent years.

These days this friendly pub is dry and smart thanks to its delightful interior with wood flooring, solid wood tables, striped wallpaper, off-white tongue and groove panelling and ancient wall oven in the rear dining area. The front is for drinkers and darts players or those who want the Rugby World Cup.

The menu is an easy mix of small bites, bar food, sharing boards and a wide choice in the starter and main course list as well as specials. Try perhaps hummus; soup; mini burger; prawns in filo pastry with Sam’s chilli sauce (Sam is front-of-house lunchtimes I am told); whitebait; smoked mackerel and a sour cream dressing; ribeye steak and fish dishes including sea bass and cod as well as fish and chips. Prices? From £4.90 to £14.95.

Our threesome shared whitebait, that mini burger, soup and the prawns, the latter solid and un-filo-light, Sam’s chilli sauce their saviour. The chunky, almost ‘baby-food puréed’ (said one diner) mushroom soup needed more flavoursome stock and seasoning. Whitebait, although fat and acceptably well deep-fried, cried out for better quality, less harsh mayo. The home-made burger was best, moist, well-endowed with excellent tomatoes and gherkins in a home-made roll.

Mains left much to be desired too. The Cajun calamari was rubbery and the waitress unfamiliar with the ingredients. The smoked mackerel salad was acceptable but both had mixed-message Mediterranean Identikit salads with olives and other unmatched items, not sitting easily with either fish. I had ordered sea bass but got cod with a herb crust, dried herbs detracting from the sensitively cooked fish, the dull crushed potatoes mostly left, no basil tasted in the pesto sauce.

Why was there a mix-up with the ordering with only three other diners in the pub? I’d asked the waitress if the sea bass was wild rather than farmed and chose this, not cod. I kept it, not wishing to eat later than the others. Sam is a distinct asset, friendly and charming, but other staff are woefully undertrained and incurious about the menu.

A bottle of Picpoul de Pinet from a pleasing wine list wasn’t chilled, warm citrusy minerals not given the treatment the wine deserved. Desserts include treacle tart, Eton Mess and chocolate brownies. We chose espressos, a good end to this mixed meal.

The White Swan promises much in looks and menu, but there’s too much uneven cooking, leaving these three diners merely bemused and bothered, not bewitched. Our bill? £73 not including a tip.


The White Swan, Station Road, Bosham PO18 8NG 01243 696465

Open all week. Bar hours: 11.30am–11pm (12–10pm Sun). Dining hours: 12.30–2.30pm/6–9pm (12-6 pm Sun).

Food: **

Service: **

Atmosphere: ***

Disabled access: fine.

How to get there: follow the old A27 from Emsworth to Bosham from the west. The pub is on the roundabout to Bosham to the south and the station to the north. On-street parking.