ql_own_le-swan_ prawnsSunday night can be a little hit and miss in France; but we found Le Swan through the usual tactic of creating a shortlist by wandering about and then using TripAdvisor to aid the final selection. Le Swan was settled upon because it was often referred to in negative reviews of other establishments. Things like “We normally go to Le Swan but tried this place and were disappointed” abounded. Whilst I can’t speak for the places that had negative reviews, I am surprised that Le Swan is such a regular haunt given the first two places I visited on holiday. As I think this review will testify, La Pierre Chaude and La Grillardine would both be above Le Swan if I were to return to Boulogne-Sur-Mer.

 Service and Decor at Le Swan

The decor is certainly more on the traditional restaurant end of the spectrum from the usual French bistro. It feels older, more classical and formal in its approach. Service was seemingly managed for the entire restaurant by one very efficient and effective French lady and, as is typical of the better places in my experience, conversation in English was limited. For the first time in France, I have to express some disappointment in not receiving nibbles with the initial drinks and I have to admit that the selection of beer was also not quite up to the scratch I have seen elsewhere. Some Stella was consumed to take the edge of the thirst before selecting wine; the house wines by the carafe, denominated by red, white or rose, were incredible (well, I can safely say the red was at least) value at €8 per 500ml.

Food at Le Swan

My starter of garlic fried prawns is a French classic and was well executed. This is the ultimate hands-on messy food in my opinion and thoroughly enjoyable. Companion’s starter of stuffed mushrooms was in fact huge mushrooms in a béchamel sauce and grilled; very well seasoned and in both cases a decent portion size too. We both opted for the bœuf bourguignon, a classic French stew of beef in red wine and surprisingly served with chips. This “Englishification” of the dish is somewhat unforgivable to me. The classic french accompaniment is boulangère potatoes (think dauphinois but with stock instead of milk and cream) and a green salad and is therefore thoroughly, squarely and soundly, in bistro territory. For clarity, there was nothing wrong with the chips and the beef was tender, tasty and clearly stewed in a lot of red wine, albeit light on the portion size.

Dessert for me was a Tarte Normande which was unremarkable (as noted by my relying on my photos to prompt me) and companion had a well enough executed crème brûlée.

Given the TripAdvisor reviews, maybe I caught Le Swan on a bad day. Maybe I am wrong and everyone else is right. Personally, I’d like to think  it is the other way around. In any event, if and when I return to Boulogne, it is likely to involve La Pierre Chaude or La Grillardine for a repeat visit. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Le Swan; it’s just not the best on that street.

The Essentials
Restaurant NameLe Swan
VistedSeptember 2014
Price Range€25 a head circa £20 ea
Phone+33 3 91 90 65 11
Address 18 Rue de Lille, 62200 Boulogne-sur-Mer, France


Le Swan
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