This was our second visit to the Swan. It’s in a great location a few minutes stroll from the village and with various walks from the door. The reception staff are efficient and friendly, and our room was fantastic. We’d chosen the four poster room, which is a reasonable size with a separate dressing area and great bathroom. Despite being on the front of the hotel it was not noisy, even with the windows open – the heavy traffic appears to stop by 8pm. The only downside of the room was that the TV was at right angles to the bed so you couldn’t watch in bed without getting a crick in the neck – but in the scheme of things not important. The garden is lovely – lots of tables and chairs with the most beautiful fell views all around. Just perfect for a cream tea in the afternoon or an aperitif before dinner.
Everything fine and dandy so far then. And so to the restaurant…
If the hotel could find a couple of decent head waiters there wouldn’t be a problem. On night 1 dinner and day 1 breakfast Colin (he of the oversized jacket referred to by another reviewer) reigned over the waiting staff. Dinner started well. A reasonable menu, and Colin took our food and wine orders promptly. Starters arrived – my walnut & feta tart was very good, his haggis was apparently excellent – and we asked the waiter (Antonio, now sadly left) if there was any sign of the wine? Starters were finished when Colin bounded to the table at a run, banged the wine on the table and scampered off again – no words were spoken. It became apparent he was not going to return to open or pour the wine, and as it was a screw top we helped ourselves. Mains were good, and I cannot understand the comment by a previous reviewer about the quantity of food – the portions were extremely generous for this type of restaurant. At the end of dinner Colin re-appeared for us to sign the tab. I asked whether he usually served wine in the way he had this evening. He at least had the good grace to look ashamed and said he was rushing to get the wine orders out. I think there were about 10 covers that night, all ordering at different times.
Booking the four poster room entitles you to a complimentary morning tea tray which we ordered for 8am. At 8.15 we lost hope and went to breakfast. We mentioned the tray to reception and guess who had responsibility for trays? You’ve guessed – Colin. Colin blamed reception for not telling him, and again apologized profusely. Breakfast arrived (tick vg for breakfast quality) apart from one thing – husband’s brekkers was missing his scrambled eggs. Colin rushed to get some, with more apologies. Two other sets of guests then got the wrong breakfasts due to plates being delivered to wrong tables, extra dishes of missing items were ferried out from the kitchen – great fun. When Colin told us he was off for the next couple of days we were almost disappointed.
That evening the restaurant team was led by Paul, with the booming voice and rosy face. To go back to the previous evening for a minute – the menu is good apart from the veggie choice of mains, which comprises one dish. I had therefore asked the apologetic Colin if it would be possible to have an alternative dish the following day. After a conference with chef Colin told me I could have a risotto, or have the veggie curry from the menu in the Walker’s Bar which would require no additional preparation. As I’m a curry kind of girl I told Colin that would be great, and he went to alert chef. So back to night 2 dinner… we ordered from the lovely Antonio (shame he’s gone), and I explained my request for curry from the bar menu had been sanctioned the night before. Then along came Paul, and proceeded to tell me from a distance of a couple of yards in his loud booming voice that it was not possible to have items from the bar menu in the restaurant. (Why on earth not? Dinner is a set price so they shouldn’t lose out!) The rest of the diners sat back and waited in anticipation to see what happened. I explained that Colin (remember him?) had organized this the night before. Paul disappeared to the kitchen and said that yes, chef was aware but no-one had told him. One would expect a head waiter to check with the kitchen to see if a guest’s request could be accommodated BEFORE making a bit of a scene in the dining room.
The dish selection now sorted Paul appeared with the wine. I thought it was odd that a cabernet sauvignon (ordered by full name and with the wine list number) was being served in an ice bucket. Paul then whipped out a sauvignon blanc, and when we said we had ordered the cabernet sauvignon he said the waiter had not written it down correctly. If the waiter could not be trusted why had Paul, as head waiter, not taken the orders, as one would expect? The bottle of red arrived. It was a cabernet sauvignon but not the one we ordered. We didn’t say anything as a glass in the hand is worth more than a bottle in the rack. Dinner was again good – my hard-fought-for curry was extremely good and his pork was very good. Incidentally, the wine Paul served us was £10 cheaper than the one we had ordered! Not a good way to keep up cellar profits.
Breakfast on morning 2 was disappointingly normal, apart from watching other guests being shown to their tables by the over zealous Paul who demanded before they could even sit down what they wanted to drink and what colour toast they wanted.
A head waiter makes or breaks a dining room. The hotel was very quiet during our stay and some of the staff quickly remembered our room number – the lovely silver haired lady on the bar was a delight and only asked out room number once in two days – proper service. One imagined that even one dangled the room key in front of him Paul would still demand names!
Maybe I complain too much as we could see the funny side of the issues – including the issue with ordering the curry which many people would have found extremely embarrassing. However, apart from the restaurant service side we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the hotel and look forward to returning – but only if Colin is still there and has been given a new jacket!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Built in 1650 as a coaching inn, and mentioned in a Wordsworth poem "The Waggoner", Macdonald Swan Hotel, Grasmere is one of the oldest hotels in the Lake District. Nestled in the Cumbrian countryside, with views across the Fells, our cosy and inviting hotel is ideal for walkers and cyclists. With open sunny vistas in summer and blazing log fires in winter, it's the ideal base for exploring the wonders of the Lake District National Park. Afterwards, relax with a delicious meal in our restaurant or enjoy the convivial atmosphere of the Walkers' Bar before retiring to a traditionally - furnished, comfortable room. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Macdonald Swan
- Macdonald Swan Grasmere
- Macdonald Swan Hotel Grasmere, Lake District