Doggie’s day out: Dinner date at The Swan, Salford

Dinner al fresco in an idyllic pub garden 10 minutes from Milton Keynes

We all have that one pub – our regular – that we go back to again and again, no matter the occasion, don’t we? Over the last few years, for me, The Swan in Salford has become it. An attractive Edwardian pub in a lovely village setting, just 10 minutes from central Milton Keynes and halfway between a good friend’s home in Cranfield and mine in Broughton, it played host to quite a few dinners pre-pandemic. In winter, it’s cosy indoors as you enjoy hearty pub classics or more contemporary gastropub fare. In summer, it becomes the perfect rural idyll where you get to enjoy dinner and drinks al fresco.

When restrictions eased earlier this summer, I realised it would make the perfect dinner date opportunity with Mr. O who hadn’t been before and of course, Doodles as The Swan is dog-friendly – and not just in name, literally all the staff either have dogs themselves (on every single occasion we’ve been there, we’ve met a staff member who’d tell us about their dogs back home and show us a photo or ten on their phones) or absolutely love dogs and can’t wait to serve the dogs water and biscuits.

As for humans, there is plenty of choice on the summer menu from fresh fish from Cornish day-boats, new season’s lamb, to summer pudding with its essential companion, a dollop of clotted cream.

Still not too keen on dining indoors we booked outdoors, and fortunately, it was a lush summer’s evening to enjoy dinner outside. I’ve always loved the look of The Swan’s garden while cycling past on long summer evenings, but having often dined there in winter, I never got the experience it. With heating, gazebos, tables kept free for walk-ins and thick blankets and throws, The Swan has got you covered even if you aren’t in the luck with the weather. If you wish to sit indoors though, the art deco feel of the interior is a joyful sight and with French windows wide open, it is well ventilated at all times.

Having saved our appetites for an early dinner, we opted for small plates o share before the mains – halloumi fries with Bloody Mary ketchup and shawarma-spiced houmous with crispy chickpeas and flatbread. Houmous was rich and creamy and the halloumi fries just the right portion.

Being a burger fan, Mr. O chose Aubrey’s steakburger for his main, with the meat sourced locally; as for me, it was the daily market fish, lemon sole, served with new potatoes and rocket – just the sort of light, lush meal for a lovely summer’s evening.

Not quite sated, we even got a cheese board for dessert – a selection of Baron Bigod, Blanche, the Strathearn,
Rutland Red and Beauvale, served with chutney, apple & Peter’s Yard Crackers.

The service, as always, was top-notch, with orders delivered promptly and always with a smile. At the table next to us there was a family with a young baby, who was determined to scatter most of her dinner around on the floor, which was met with delighted smiles; so I am happy to report The Swan is just as baby-friendly as it is dog-friendly.

If you haven’t been here before you may be fooled that the feel-good atmosphere is just an effect of long, light summer evenings but it is not, there is always an air of cosy camaraderie at The Swan even in the darkest time of the year, with patrons greeting each other warmly, and enjoying a stroke of each others’ dogs too when the opportunity presents itself. It may just be one of my happy places in Milton Keynes. And if you haven’t been there yet, do check it out. It may become one of yours too!

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