Ho Ho Ho, a Christmas special for dinner with jo…
I just came back from a six course Christmas extravaganza at The Stag pub. For those out-of-towners who aren’t familiar with South End Green, it’s next to Belsize Park and it’s where the Royal Free hospital is. My family are not so hot on planning; so much so that at 3pm on Christmas Eve there was no set plan for Christmas Day. I made a few phone calls and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the Stag had one table free. The man I spoke to couldn’t have been friendlier or more obliging. I was even told that whilst the fixed price menu did not include drinks, they were sure to be “generous with the mulled wine and port.” Good to know.
We turned up at 2pm, my dad had some banter with the barman about sherry vs brandy glasses then we were escorted upstairs to our table. Having assured my family (newcomers to The Stag) that it was a lovely place and by no means a dingy old man pub, I was pleased by their initial admiration.
Pre lunch I enjoyed an excellent mulled cider.
Course 1: Smoked salmon, goats cheese and beetroot salad or chicken liver pate. I had the goats cheese. The salad was perhaps slightly light on beetroot and heavy on frisée but other than that it was good. The smoked salmon was of a sashimi texture, it was very tasty and went very well with the soda bread provided for the table. Reports of the chicken liver pate suggested it was of a high standard.
Course 2: A granita to cleanse the palette, a little like a mojito sorbet. I’m afraid to say this course was not good. It was extremely alcoholic. As someone who enjoys a whiskey sour, I can handle my spirits but this was too strong and I couldn’t have more than one spoonful. My family are of varying degrees of T-totalness and all were in agreement on the matter.
Course 3: Turkey and all the trimmings, beef Wellington or sea bream. No one in my group ordered the sea bream so I can only comment on the beef and turkey. Everything was excellent – the meat was succulent, gravy and other sauces were plentiful, crispy roast potatoes and tasty vegetables.
Between courses we were visited by the owner of the pub and his young son to check we were happy with our meal. He also (prompted by my dad) gave us a brief insight into The Stag’s history: it was first leased in 1874 to a butcher (explaining the words “meat room” on the windows of the upstairs room) and now has sister pub in Notting Hill. We all appreciated this touch of personal attention.
Course 4: For dessert there was a choice of lavender creme brûlée, dark chocolate terrine or Christmas pudding. It won’t be surprising to hear that the Christmas pudding was bathed in brandy. The chocolate terrine was very good and not too rich, and the creme brûlée delightful, with a top so crispy that it took several attempts and a fair amount of power to crack through it.
It was 5.30pm by this point and we were all a bit too full for courses 5 and 6. Our waiter was more than happy to pack them up for us to take away and brought us cheese and designer crackers, Rolos and mince pies in little bags. I’ve no doubt they will be superb. After mint teas, we were on our way.
I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas at the Stag, as did all of my family. With the exception of the alcoholic sorbet, the food was excellent. The staff were welcoming, friendly and attentive. Whilst my review has been based on today’s meal, it is representative of the non Christmas menu since I’ve been on many occasions for lunch and dinner and always enjoyed my meal (in the summer you can get a great burger in the beer garden). Before today, The Stag was definitely somewhere I frequented, but it has now gone up in the ranks and become a firm favourite. I can’t recommend it enough!