If you’re a fan of the Bourne and Hollingsworth in Fitzrovia then you might just love the Swan and Edgar more. Adopting the same kitsch tactics of its sister bar, as soon as you step inside this quaint venue you immediately feel a sense of warmth and welcoming. A few tables are placed outside and what grabs you are the faux books that line the entrance.
On the inside, it’s so cosy it feels as if you’ve entered someone’s front room. The bar is truly unique being made out of second hand books donated by locals and the publisher Penguin, the different colours making a mosaic that draws the eye towards the bar. On the walls, there are pictures of the Swan and Edgar matchbox and the now defunct department store, adding to its history and raison d’etre.
Some refurbished venues scrimp on bathroom facilities and don’t bother to do them up; this is not the case here. When you step inside, you will notice that the floor is made of individual Scrabble pieces adding to the literary theme.
Downstairs serves as a place for people to hang out and have a couple of drinks in a very laid back atmosphere but venturing up the winding staircase, you are presented with a petite dining room which looks more like a study. The donated books theme continues up here but are presented in a more haphazard manner. Some of the books aren’t glued together so you can pick them up and have a read if you fancy – Moby Dick, Emma, the Children’s Britannica and the Reader’s Digest Reverse Dictionary are just some of the options. The wallpaper consists of pages of a history book making it feel that you’re sitting inside a book – a brilliant idea – and the lighting in here consists of reading lights, another inspired touch.
When it comes to the food, the Swan and Edgar wanted to achieve simple British dishes at affordable prices and they really have hit the nail on the head with that. For snacks you can nibble on a huge portion of sticky cocktail Cumberland sausages tossed in honey and sesame seeds (£5). If you are a fan of homemade scotch eggs, you may be disappointed with the quality of the ones here. For £3, although they are a big, they are lacking flavour and are a bit on the dry side, which is a shame. They also do sharing platters, which seem a bit pricey compared with the rest of the menu. The choices are an English Deli Board for £5 per person and a Classic English Cheese Board for £6 per person. The cheese board is varied in flavour and quality but might be better if there was a touch more on the plate.
However it’s with the main courses that they truly shine. Starting at £8 for a wild mushroom risotto which has sweet mushrooms and a seductive sauce; hints of balsamic vinegar and shaves of parmesan make for an almighty dish. There is also handmade chicken and asparagus pie (£8.50), and old spot pork and leek sausages (£9) – three big herby sausages with thick gravy and a creamy mash. For desserts, you can choose from British classics, such as apple and rhubarb crumble or sticky toffee pudding, both with custard at £4.50.
For the drinks, they adopt a similar attitude to the Bourne and Hollingsworth; simple, quality drinks that customers can appreciate. The three beers on tap are Asahi, Amstel and Spitfire at £3.50 a pop. When asking to look at the wine list you are presented with a long, well thought out choices of fine wines from different regions. If you are a bit uncertain what to choose, the chirpy chappies behind the bar will help you pick one. (They can also help if you don’t know what to eat, too.) They bring you service with a smile and act as if you are their friend. A red that they recommended was the 2007 Torre Aldea Tinto Rioja (£33). It has a smooth, warming taste and is easily drunk – it goes wonderfully with meaty dishes.
Visiting the Swan and Edgar is an experience and once you’ve been you’ll want to make it your new favourite local.