THE Swan at Tetsworth has had an eventful eight months.

For years one of Oxfordshire's most highly-regarded French eateries, in November the historic pub's kitchen was completely destroyed by a fire thought to have been sparked by a fridge.

Thanks to the rapid response by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, the blaze was prevented from spreading to the adjoining 40-room antiques centre and causing incalculable damage.

Managers said if the firefighters had arrived five minutes later it would all be gone.

On December 1 the restaurant were able to reopen using a temporary portable kitchen unit lowered into the garden with a crane, but just two months later, and with the revamp of the kitchen getting under way in earnest, business owner Antoine Chretien and restaurant manager Camille Veron (partners in life as well as business) decided that, rather than run a restaurant with builders and plumbers trudging through the tables every day, it would be better to close completely.

As a result, the couple have spent the past five months power washing their garden furniture, tending to their plants and growing increasingly impatient to get back to doing the jobs that they so clearly love.

On Friday night, they were finally able to reopen to the world, and did so in Gallic style with a champagne-drenched garden party attended by an invited list of special guests, including yours truly.

The couple also used the opportunity to show off their new secret weapon - head chef Jonas Lodge.

For Antoine, this appointment was the realisation of a long-held dream: when Jonas was cheffing at the Ricketty Press in Jericho, Antoine admits he used to visit on a weekly basis to indulge.

For those unfamiliar with the name, Jonas has also worked at Heston Blumenthal's world-famous Fat Duck in Berkshire, Le Manoir, and most recently was head chef at The Bell in Ramsbury, Wiltshire, during which time it was crowned AA Hospitality Pub of the Year England 2017-18.

So great is that pub's loss, indeed, that on the Swan's opening night the Bell's website still boasted him as its head chef.

As we chat over champagne in the Swan's newly-refreshed garden about some of the great Michelin-starred restaurants currently causing a buzz, Jonas remarks casually: "This place is going to get a star."

As a tantalising teaser of his new menu, he treats guests at the party to a small selection of exquisite canapes: smoked salmon blinis with sprigs of fermented juniper; duck rillette with fermented carrots; steak tartare, and some kind of exotic garlic milkshake with - Antoine reveals - garlic foraged by Jonas himself from nearby woodlands, served in tiny Kilner jars with straws.

For 'dessert' we are served a selection of sweet treats which are executed with equal expertise.

Jonas reveals that his big thing at the moment is fermentation, and guests can expect a lot of it on the menu.

He is also planning to make his own sourdough bread (a skill he has taught himself in the past five months) and the butter to go with it.

However, he promises the regulars that he will still be serving many of the dishes which they had grown to love at the Swan, not least its famous crepe suzette.

Whether Jonas will earn his star here remains to be seen, but with this combination of gastronomic innovation and classic cuisine, the Swan looks certain to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

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