Well, it’s safe to say Christmas was a wee bit of a washout in the Manning household. Mr M has been struck down with some kind of awful illness that rendered our many plans dead in the water. I’m not gonna harp on – after all, there are many people in far worse positions than us this Christmas. Plus, we were lucky enough that he just about managed to make it through our special Christmas Dinner at The Stag at Offchurch before dying in bed for the next three days.
I’ve mentioned before that my mum and I have been out for Christmas Dinner quite a few times (we went to the Old Lion at Harborough Magna last year) but Mr M is usually working and when he hasn’t been, we’ve done it at home. So this year, on a rare year that he didn’t have to work, was to be our big fun year of going out for lunch. We didn’t quite managed the fun part as much as we’d hoped, as it was more of an endurance test for Jamie, but we certainly had some good food.
We chose The Stag after Jamie and I had a lovely meal there for our anniversary earlier this year. We thought the food was great and, nearly as important to me, the service and the atmosphere were great too, so we booked Christmas there and then. The menu looked quite appealing and at £80 a head, I didn’t think it was all too bad price wise (not for Christmas Dinner anyway).
We arrived to a lovely festive smiley greeting from the staff and were escorted to our nicely-laid table in the rear dining room where we settled down for a drink while we finalised our menu choices. We’d had the menu since October but didn’t have to pre-order which meant there was plenty of time for any last-minute indecision.
As I enjoyed a Bloody Mary, we were brought some fresh bread and butter and an amuse bouche of honey roasted parsnip velouté with white truffle oil. This really was very good – rich, smooth and creamy, and super festive!
For starter, there was the choice of chicken liver parfait with black truffle butter, red onion marmalade, pickles, brioche toast; a Stag seafood cocktail; or mulled wine poached pear, roquefort, walnut & endive salad, and blue cheese dressing.
Mr M and I went for the parfait. Smooth, creamy and simple. I might be being particularly stupid but I’m not sure where the black truffle butter was. The only thing I can think of was that it was on the outside of the parfait, but I don’t think so somehow.
To be honest, in my humble opinion the dish didn’t lose much by not having it. The brioche was sweet, light and delicately toasted, the red onion marmalade sticky and thick, with the baby pickled gherkins and pickled onions adding a crunch and a piquancy that cut through the richness just enough to get you ready for your next mouthful. Like I say, we were fine without truffle butter – I was just intrigued to try it.
Mum chose the Stag seafood cocktail which was, as you’d hope, far more than your average prawn cocktail. Prawns, crayfish, crab and salmon, served with lettuce, fennel and tomatoes, with a seafood sauce flavoured just right, and not too much so it didn’t overwhelm the deliciously fresh seafood in the bowl. And all served up with seeded fresh generously-buttered bread.
For main course, I was torn between the beef and the turkey. I don’t usually go for turkey but was sorely tempted mainly because of the inclusion of slow cooked leg as well as roasted breast. But despite my wavering, the Aubrey Allen roast sirloin of beef won out.
This photo so does not do it justice. Generous slabs of tender, pink beef (you could choose pink or slightly more well done), with crisp duck fat potatoes hidden underneath, surrounded by a moat of beef jus, with a MASSIVE Yorkshire pudding perched on top like some kind of crown. Two golden roasted parsnips added another aesthetic wow factor, making it a huge, welcoming plate of food.
The beef was brilliantly cooked and great quality – you could cut through it like butter. The potatoes were soft and fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The Yorkshire was light and puffy, with a nice crunch in places, and the jus was pure essence of beef.
Mum chose the turkey, which came with duck fat potatoes, pigs in blankets, more of the parsnips our beef was decorated with, cranberry and orange stuffing and turkey jus.
The turkey breast was moist and well cooked but it was the leg that was a real triumph. I prefer the leg meat anyway, but this was really very good, slow cooked so it literally fell apart, and packed with a deep gamey flavour. She was brought two little pots of bread sauce and cranberry sauce, both nice, although the bread sauce was slightly too sweet for her liking.
Along with our dishes came a selection of vegetables for the table. A brightly-coloured bowl piled high with veg – sprouts served still crunchy, exactly how they should be, red cabbage, cauliflower cheese, and what I think was sweet potato mash but might have had some carrot in it. Either way, a lovely rainbow of flavours and textures that made for a great backing group to the main stars of the stage on our table.
For dessert we each went our own separate way, choosing a different pud each, with some chat about maybe ordering a cheese board after (yeah right!). Mum and I agreed to go halves on the Christmas pudding with brandy sauce and the St Clements’ posset. The Christmas pud was an alcohol-laced chunk of fruit-packed pudding, submerged in an equally booze brandy sauce. Thank god for sharing, because there was no way I could’ve managed a whole one of those to myself.
Predictably, Mr M went for the Belgian chocolate brownie, served with Griottine cherries and vanilla ice cream. Never before have I eaten anything quite as chocolatey as this. You know when something’s so sweet it literally makes your teeth hurt? This was that – to the power of 10!
Moist, rich, sickly, I could go on and on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture. If it helps convey quite how crazy this was, the vanilla ice cream – a sweet treat at any other time – was a welcome reprieve from the saccharine sweetness of the brownie.
The cherries might look like innocuous little ornaments on the plate, but these bad boys certainly packed a punch. Griottines are cherries soaked in kirsch, from Franche-Comté in eastern France. They rivalled the Christmas pud when it came to alcohol content, adding a sourness that cut through the richness of the brownie.
My pick, the St Clements posset, was the top choice I think. After generous portions of rich festive food, the citrusy cream was a refreshing palate-cleansing dessert. On top of that, the winter berries added a beautiful brightness, not to mention a lemon-sucking tartness that was actually really welcome.
The homemade shortbread was a different story – each one of us that bit into it laughed at the sheer sugary, buttery sweetness of it. Fabulous though, just crazy indulgent.
We finished off with coffees and some completely unnecessary, but rather tasty, petit fours. Wowsers – full is not the word! Unfortunately by this point Mr M had pretty much died, so we left rather sharpish so we could get him home, but there’s no denying we had been well fed.
The food was as I’d remembered – good quality, well-cooked, generous portions, and nicely presented. The service, too, was great and perfect for Christmas Day. Cheery, welcoming, not too formal but still with the sense of it being a special occasion.
The only downside to the atmosphere was – and this is largely out of the control of The Stag – a few very young children running amok right next to our table. I know, I know, people with children have as much right to take their children out on Christmas Day as anyone else. I don’t disagree. The thing is, I don’t particularly want little ones and their parents dashing backwards and forwards right next to my chair while I’m trying to enjoy a special occasion with my nearest and dearest.
Like I say, there’s little The Stag could have done about this, in the same way they couldn’t do anything about one of the same children hanging off their beautiful windows blinds in a tantrum. But perhaps an idea might be to create an area that you don’t seat children in and asking people their preference. That way the family friendly peeps can enjoy themselves and all the fun that children bring, while the grumpy grown-ups like me are left to our own devices. Just a thought.
Nevertheless, we had a great time (well, poor Mr M didn’t but that can’t be helped). It was a great place to enjoy Christmas lunch and we’re all keen to go back yet again for more of The Stag’s fab food.
We paid in full for our Christmas lunch at The Stag, plus a rather nice bottle of vino 🙂