Pre-theatre dining at The White Swan

As the adjoining pub to City Varieties and only a stone’s throw from The Grand Theatre, The White Swan is in the perfect location to enjoy a pre-theatre meal.  I went along to test it out.

The pub, one of those owned by Leeds Brewery, focuses its menu on locally sourced produce and also offers a good range of food for vegetarian eaters.  Beer is The White Swan’s speciality and there was a wide choice of local ale and imported craft beer on offer. We went for the Leeds Pale Ale and a Whakunui craft beer, both reasonably priced at under £4. If you’re not a beer drinker, there is also a large variety of gin and special offers on weekdays guarantee good prices.

As it was the hottest day of the year, we were relieved to see that the large French windows were all open and we could easily find a table by the window. Despite this, there were lot of reservations, so make sure to book ahead if you’re on a tight time schedule.

All photographs by Esther Marshall

We decided to start with crispy whitebait served with lemon and garlic mayo and baked Brie with focaccia and chutney. Each of these was served with salad. The whitebait came in a very sizeable portion and was seasoned with paprika. The fish was cooked well and was tasty. Unfortunately, it was slightly let down by the garlic and lemon mayo, which didn’t taste strongly of either ingredient. The brie was oozing on the plate and was excellently complemented by the locally sourced Midnight Bell chutney. Both starters could have been improved with salad dressing as the dry salad lacked flavour and didn’t really add to either dish.

Although I was tempted by the Leeds sausage and mash, the temperature outside led me to plump for the halloumi, roast pepper and mushroom stack burger. All the burgers are served with twice cooked chips, onion rings and salad. The burger was flavoursome and serving it on focaccia made a pleasant change from a standard brioche bun.  Although the burger was tasty, the chips were the highlight of the meal for me, thick cut and very obviously freshly cooked.

My friend went for the steak and ale pie served with mash and buttered seasonal veg. The pie was heavy on the pastry but also on the filling so she had no complaints about that. Once again the portions were big so if you’re not that hungry, it’s probably best to stick to one course.

We couldn’t have tackled dessert but if you have a sweet tooth, skip the starters and head straight for the chocolate brownie sundae. As you order at the bar and pay before eating, we had ample time to get to the theatre without having to wait around for the bill.

The service was impeccable throughout our dining experience. Our waiter let us try the beer before tasting and was happy to advise us. All the food was served promptly so we were able to enjoy two courses at a leisurely pace in just under an hour and a half. A short walk to the Grand Theatre makes it possible to dine at 6pm and be in your seat by 7:30. If you’d rather your entertainment and food in one location, the pub also hosts piano evenings and live music so there’s plenty of reason to check it out even if you’re not going to the theatre.

The White Swan had a pleasant atmosphere and if you’re after food that celebrates local produce, it’s definitely worth a try, whether pre-theatre or simply to relax and re-fuel for an hour or two.


Esther is a contributor for Leeds Living, covering events all across the City, on topics such as eat/drink, retail therapy and culture.

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