IT IS often said of swans that they are all serenity and grace above the water while they are paddling like mad underneath.

Richard Haddon and Michiel Verkoren took over the Swan Inn, at Ascott-under-Wychwood, after the pub had been closed for three years and its future looked bleak.

They have been pedalling like mad ever since — and now their hard work has paid off.

The pub is cosy and comfortable with a snug bar area, cheerful restaurant, six bedrooms and a stylish function room that has just been opened by a certain David Cameron.

The walls of the bar are covered in photographs of celebrities and signed posters from many theatrical productions which if you were going Through the Keyhole would give you a big clue as to who would run a pub like this.

Richard and Michiel have many years’ experience of the hospitality world between them, but they started out in showbusiness.

Michiel is a classically-trained ballet dancer who moved into the world of musicals and Richard is an actor and is experienced in production and direction.

Between jobs the two of them worked in restaurants and bars and gradually that side of their lives took over. Michiel discovered his talent for cooking and took the opportunity to train professionally and Richard earned his stripes as a hotel manager in Devon.

The food is broadly modern British but there is a tilt towards the European, perhaps reflecting Michiel’s Dutch heritage. Michiel cooks alongside head chef Dean Collins, they all met when working together in Kingham.

I began with a tasty warm mackerel salad with sautéed potatoes, tomato concasse and bacon (£5.95). A tasty and cheerful starter on a damp, cold winter’s evening. Daniel had the calamari with chilli mayo dip (£4.95). Crisp batter, just enough heat in the mayo and he was as happy as a Lord.

His Lordship followed with steak and ale pie (£11.95) and I had lamb rump with ratatouille and pomme purée (£15.95).

His Nibs declared the pie pastry light and buttery and the steak and ale was rich and succulent. I can vouch for that, I was so busy helping myself to his pie he had to affect an intervention.

My lamb was perfectly pink as requested and the creamy potato was smoother than a lounge lizard and much tastier.

After our generous savoury portions, for dessert we asked for one helping of Laverstocke Park Farm ice cream, made from buffalo milk, and two spoons (£4.95). We shared — by which I mean, I ate it all and Daniel picked his spoon up — pistachio, chocolate and mango. Water buffalo milk makes great ice cream, as well as great mozzarella.

The future of the Swan Inn looked bleak until Richard and Michiel turned up. The village welcomed them with open arms and have been so supportive of their efforts that they formed a company and 38 villagers and families own shares in the pub.

A folk group were busy tuning up in the new function room when we were there, and it is the perfect venue for music, comedy, private parties, wedding receptions and more.

Richard and Michiel have run successful tribute act nights already and with their amazing address book of showbiz chums and Richard’s talent for production, the idea of An Audience With... is something they’re thinking about too.

The Swan Inn is a proper cosy local, serving a decent pint of real ale at the right temperature (his Lordship’s words, I stuck to the Sauvignon Blanc) and tasty, affordable, comforting pub food. Service is warm, welcoming and attentive. Richard and Michiel are such a dynamic team that I do not think there is danger of a swansong for this pub anytime soon.

The Swan Inn, Ascott-under-Wychwood. Call 01993 832332 or see