SIR Edward Elgar, in a musical sense, cooked up a sensation with his Enigma Variations, whereas at The Swan in Bampton, Paul and Donna Berry are cooking up a variation on a theme with their cooking.

They have people’s favourites on the menu but also have daily specials and Donna in particular is always looking to cook up a storm by creating something new, something unique and something which will take your breath away.

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It is definitely working, as this country pub has been named among the best gastropubs in the country for the second year running.

The multi award-winning pub polled in at number 28 this year and received a special award as the highest climber in the list, as in 2017 it was positioned just inside the chart at 50.

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Paul and Donna, who have been married for 13 years, have been running The Swan in Bampton for seven years, having previously run The Quarrymans Rest, also in the village, for five years.

Paul was first involved in the pub/catering industry when he was 30-years-old as his parents wanted to get his help when they set up a pub.

It is a job and an industry which he loves being involved with as he views it as a constant challenge.

“I think a pub is for everyone and it is a place which doesn’t have to be expensive,” he said.

“The doors of The Swan are open for everyone and we sell as much in drink as we do in food.

“We need to remain a pub, as well as serving good food.

You can, if you are not careful, fall into one or the other, a restaurant or a pub.

“When people come in here we want to make them feel welcome and they can enjoy good food.

“We want to offer quality food even if it is a Scotch egg or a steak and then a dessert.

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“Consistency is the key but it is always challenging.

“You do what you think is best but some days I do feel under pressure but that is pressure I put on myself as it is about keeping up standards and making sure people enjoy themselves.

“We are always thinking how we can take another step forward even if it is 0.3 of one point.

“We aim to get get better and we want to stay on top.

“You have to yourself and you have to serve the best product you can be it steak, fish or steak and kidney pie.”

In Paul’s words: “Bampton has a really good vibe about it.”

While Paul is very much as they say in the trade ‘front of house’, Donna likes nothing more than ‘cooking in the kitchen’.

She has always had a passion for cooking, even when she was at secondary school doing her O Levels, she went to see the deputy headmistress to find out why she could not take the cookery course.

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You don’t do that if you love cooking or ignore advice when you are total she should be a secretary.

It must be in the blood, Donna said: “Cooking is something I have always wanted to do.

“I love nothing more than looking at different ingredients and thinking what I can create, what I can make.

“I really enjoy creating new dishes. I know when I have got it right, just like I know when it could have been better.

“Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason why it is better or worse than the day before.

“Before I get the first orders of an evening, I do get nervous, it is like stage fright. But once I get going all the panic stops and I am in the zone, in my bubble.

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“I love the challenge and I learn something every day.

“Every day here is different, we do not know what will come through the doors.

“Winning the awards has been great and all our regular customers are pleased of us.”

Their customers are pleased for Paul and Donna as The Swan has been named as the best dining pub for 2018 in the Trencherman award; A Gold Tourism Pub award in 2017 in the Devon Tourism Award; Two AA Rosettes for culinary excellence and polled 28th in the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropub Awards.

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The Swan’s menu is created from fresh, seasonal ingredients, sourced from nearby, on a daily basis, by Paul and Donna and their team.

Small they say is beautiful and in The Swan’s case, this Swan is gracefully moving, not resting on its laurels but always looking how it can improve.

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