By Royal Approval

The Mute Swan at Hampton Court offers Paul Critcher a grown-up dining experience where he starts to rediscover his foodie identity

Now that my kids are older in their mid teens, I feel like I’ve begun to rediscover my foodie identity – gone are the high street chains with their penchant for spicy chicken, in favour of a return to authentic ethnic restaurants, cute bistros and gastro pubs. One such hostelry that I recently returned to is the Mute Swan in East Molesley, opposite the gates of Hampton Court – a cute but grown up eatery that combines a stylish bistro-style restaurant on the first floor with a buzzy pub downstairs.

Updated and refurbished by the Brunning and Price restaurant group two years ago, what was formerly Blubeckers grill has been transformed into a modern airy space that has a flavour of art deco and is tastefully decorated throughout, with wood panelling and a gallery of old photos on the walls. It’s effortlessly smart and retains the Mute Swan’s own personality. The ground floor pub is adults only, and dominated by the long wooden bar and a central spiral staircase that leads to the restaurant. Service is quick and smart, with the chance to try out some of the many real ales that are on tap. I enjoyed the Zephyr IPA which was light and hoppy, perfect for a summer’s evening.

Having breathed in some of the atmosphere downstairs, we took our drinks upstairs to the dining room (although diners can eat downstairs if they prefer). Mrs C and I were fortunate to be seated at one of the windows looking out towards Hampton Court, and with the setting sun still glowing, a gentle breeze and a lovely glass of Albariño in hand, it had the makings of a beautiful evening.

The food matched the surroundings – stylish and well executed. A starter of Korean chicken wings with Kimchi salad was tart and crisp, no greasy chicken here, it was beautifully fresh and clean tasting. The grilled asparagus was the perfect summer starter and the accompanying poached duck egg yolk was suitably runny, coating the vegetables and chorizo in a tasty sauce.

I ummed and aahed over the mains, but eventually chose the lemon and paprika roasted poussin with mixed seafood paella. What a great choice! Crunchy squid, samphire, and perfectly cooked rice and that’s without even mentioning the delectable poussin – superb! My dining partner was happy with her duck breast and potato rosti and I couldn’t resist trying one of her delicious duck croquettes. A shared dessert of dark chocolate and hazelnut praline tart with salted caramel ice cream was a wonderful way to finish – “two spoons please and a glass of Malbec!”

All in all it had the makings of a perfect evening, and it’s a fantastic local landmark. The Mute Swan is a great place to enjoy food with friends following a visit to the palace or a cycle along the river or a stroll through Bushy Park – you decide!

The Mute Swan, www.muteswan.co.uk

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