Whistling Swan Sturbridge Restaurant Review

The first important thing to state here is that in 2010 the Whistling Swan was taken over by new management. Where it used to have a cheaper upstairs and a more formal downstairs, now they have one menu in the whole building. The new menu is somewhere in the middle between the previous two in terms of price.

I've eaten at the new version twice. The first time we ate downstairs in the formal area. We deliberately came to see what the new restaurant menu and presentation was like. It was quite, elegant, peaceful, and wonderful. The second time I wanted to eat downstairs as well, because it was another special occasion. However, when I went to that area, there was nobody at the station at all. I stood there for perhaps 5 minutes before someone came over and said it was reserved for a special event. They probably should have had a sign or something so people knew to go upstairs. Upstairs I went. It was crammed, very noisy, and they seated us all right up against each other. We could barely get into our seats. An entirely different experience.

In general the food was reasonably good. There were some issues, like not enough sauce with the calamari, or with an appetizer having spices and flavors not clearly indicated on the menu. It was almost a guessing game with some dishes, what you asked for and what you got.

One of our party became obsessed with the chicken parm / fettuccini alfredo combination, although putting them both literally on top of each other made the flavors bleed together in an non-tasty way. We learned to ask for them separated out.

While that is really tasty and a huge serving, on the other hand we had serious issues with the beef wellington. The person who wanted this asked for it rare. He got it absolutely burnt - and they didn't have any more. So he had to wait until we were all done with dinner before they could bring him out a steak to substitute for it. As an apology they offered a free dessert - which we weren't going to eat - but now we sort of had to. As someone who is generally trying to eat healthily, this was a little iffy to me. I suppose of course we should have just turned it down.

So we really had a mix of experiences here. Downstairs - quiet, formal, the special occasion we were hoping for. Upstairs - noisy, crowded, burnt food, waitress who was often AWOL. In fact we had to wait five minutes to be able to flag her down to tell her the meal *was* burnt because she never checked back in on us.

We thought we should come back a third time for a "tie breaker". We were at a Bordeaux tasting in Sturbridge and we left it early to race over to get to the restaurant. We were there at exactly 9:30pm on a Thursday night - we'd been here LONG past that time on other nights. The doors were locked! Their website has no closing hours, their entryway has no closing hour. Kaizen across the street is open until 10pm on Thursdays and 11pm on Fri and Sat. The cook called out the window that they weren't taking in any more people, and when we asked if they had the parm / fettuccini dish ready, he cheerfully said "yup!" If we'd gone in we could have ordered in 2 minutes and the food was there already to eat. We didn't have a chance. At least they should post their hours *somewhere* - we wouldn't have left the Bordeaux tasting if we'd known.

So what is my summary? If I was going to go here, it would be for a special occasion. To have it turn into a crowded, bad service, burnt food result is definitely not worth it especially with so many great restaurants right around the corner. Yes, one of the times it was good - but a 50/50 chance of disaster is just too high for me. I think I'll be sticking with the alternatives going forward.




Previous Owners Review
Note these below reviews were done before 2011 - it was done with the "old owners" in control. This is back when there were different menus downstairs and upstairs.

This restaurant is located in Sturbridge and has that feeling of 'elegant colonial New England'. They do have a cheaper restaurant ("the Ugly Duckling") associated with them, but the Whistling Swan side is made for the rich antique hunters and the proud 'my ancestors came over on the Mayflower' visitors that want a great dining experience.

In the past year, I went there with my dad and found the wine selection to be great and the menu to be full of delicious items. The restaurant itself is old-elegant, meaning it's not very comfortable and makes you worry if you've used the right fork or not. I went back again with my mom and found the same thing - that the wines are overpriced and the waitstaff is a bit unhelpful.

OK try #3 in the same 12 month period. I went with my sister and mom for Mother's Day. They had a set menu that had only 5-6 items on it, with 4-5 appetizers and 4 desserts. My mom and sister showed up at 6:30 (the time of the reservation) and even though the reservation was for downstairs, they were shown upstairs. No server talked to them for a full 20 minutes while they sat there. I got there at 6:50 and took them back downstairs again, where the waitress was much more attentive.

Unfortunately, the best appetizer, dessert and 2 of the dishes were already out of stock. OK, so I had the shrimp bisque and tuna, and my 2 guests had other dishes. The appetizers and wine showed up promptly. The bisque was mild but good. Next came the salads, which were OK. On we moved to the main dish. The tuna was simple but tasty, although it came with mashed potatoes and peas. I'm low carb and I suppose I should have asked, but as that's what everybody else got too, there wasn't much option to substitute out.

By the time we got to dessert, our waters weren't being refilled and now half of the desserts were gone. We asked for 2 german cream cakes and a strawberry shortcake. We instead got a german cream cake and a german chocolate cake plus the shortcake. Ah well, we ate them anyway. The total for dinner was about $160 including the inexpensive wine we drank. This was actually quite reasonable - and since the menu was the same up in the Ugly Duckling (although as mentioned the service was far worse) I imagine it was a good price due to that.

Now to the bad part, though. When I got home I immediately began to have severe stomach pains despite taking gas-x and tums every hour on the hour all night, until I was violently ill at around 6am. I then felt somewhat better but not fully. I'd forgotten my jacket there (we were pretty much the last to leave so I wasn't very worried about calling in earlier). They took my number and said they'd look for it, and I mentioned the illness. They said I must have been allergic to something in the food. I eat seafood ALL the time, the salad was normal and the peas and mashed potatoes were rather uninspiring. So I really doubt that I developed a sudden allergy to say, capers, which I eat by the jar-ful. They did track down the jacket a few days later, so that was good!

In any case, I do have to say the waitress this time was at least helpful in the beginning although she vanished later on. But in general, there are several other restaurants in the area that I'd choose in terms of a good meal for the money.

Menu: Changes, sometimes great high end food, sometimes bland high end food
Wine List: Great selection but overpriced
Dress: Nice - skirts, dresses, dress pants
Staff: When present, they are friendly and helpful, willing to do extras to please

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