Sunday arrived on a bank holiday weekend and we had an outdoor table booked at The Stag in Belsize Park. Alas, by Friday I was already so done with socialising outdoors until next year.
Ah the joy of a British bank holiday weekend with yet more fucking cold weather. Sometimes I feel that the weather trolls us – last year we had the sunniest spring ever when we weren’t even allowed in the park, this year we seem to be having the coldest spring ever when we are only allowed to eat and drink outside. Well, frostiest April for 60 years according to the Met Office, to be factual.
What’s that? It’s mayoral and local election week and somebody has written something factual on the internet backed up with evidence? Sorry about that.
Can you guess who I’m voting for on Thursday? I’ll tell you later. Think of it as a game…this would have counted for fun this time last year.
It was a weekend of mixed success with hospitality for me. Being limited to outdoors socialising meant that even two weeks in advance it was impossible to book somewhere decent in central London for Friday night, and we ended up booking a table at Brewdog. Have you ever eaten a burger at Brewdog?
Don’t. I’m not the greatest fan of burgers at the best of times, but this was gash. And given that it is close to the office building that I possibly in theory still work in, I do have experience of how shit the burgers are at Brewdog. I knew the burger would be shit. I still ordered the burger. And yes, it was shit. Granted it is good to be proven right – sometimes I feel that I prefer being right, for example predicting the gashness of this burger, as opposed to being very wrong when predicting my football team to get relegated and them subsequently winning the league.
I’m going to stag you up
Why was the burger shit? Well there was no avocado as advertised, barely any sauce, the red onion tasted revolting and the chicken was clearly fried even further in advance than your average roast potatoes are cooked. I am a fan of their sweet potato fries though. Oh and I was freezing cold sat outside – all that crowdfunding every few months and you cannot afford any heaters, Brewdog?
On Saturday I went to Costa Del Tottenham which at least sounded warmer. It was a cool set-up, but I had no mobile reception which makes ordering via app pretty challenging (though not as challenging as using Brewdog’s clunky anti-user experience app), drinks took ages to arrive – we learned to order again as soon as the round of drinks arrived, though at the worst even that didn’t work when waiting an hour for some beers to arrive – as much as increased prices are a trend so it seems is a lack of staff. Did I mention that it was cold outside? What am I saying? That was the perfect cue to start a rant about the lack of sexy European barmaids due to Brexit. Urgh I’m such a nobhead. I don’t mention Brexit enough nowadays, do I?
Alas, there was a choice of burger, burger or halloumi burger for food at Costa Del Tottenham. Yet the burger was actually good – really good quality beef with some Applewood smoked cheddar on top, washed down with some gloriously nasty red wine in a cheap plastic glass, with some DJs of gender types that several of the London mayor candidates wouldn’t approve of, banging some house music out. In the cold.
I feel that January’s me would have been envious of my social life this weekend. Yet I was even more tired of socialising outdoors in the cold than Shaun Bailey is of shadows.
So I cannot say that I was too excited to be on my way to The Stag to be sitting out in the cold once more. Alas, I’m here to serve you. Worked out who I’m voting for yet?
Hey sexy, fancy a stag?
Thankfully, The Stag had a surprisingly large garden that was temporarily completely covered by a marquee – with plenty of heaters. It was actually so warm that we asked them to turn the nearest heater down.
On the menu was a chicken sharer, rib-eye beef or pork belly. I was torn between the pork belly and the rib-eye – pretty much my two favourite roast meats, perhaps with leg of lamb up there also. With equal levels of indecision to when I was ordering from the Brewdog menu on the Friday evening – but with opposite levels of hope, I eventually chose pork belly under the pressure of the waitress waiting for my decision, at the respectable price of £16.50. And no, I won’t be voting Gammons for mayor.
It took around 15-20 minutes to arrive, though we then made the rookie error of ordering red wine when the food arrived so our wine then arrived 10 minutes into eating – our fault not theirs, I should stress.
There was a fair plethora of vegetables and the carrots were the pick for me – the flavour was brought out really nicely from their roasting, and they had a good balance between softness and crunch.
The parsnips were also very flavoursome, excellently so – yet just a bit too undercooked for my preferences – too much of a crunch. Nothing too burdensome, but enough to reduce the joy.
Also too al dente was the tenderstem broccoli – I’m a big fan of tenderstem broccoli as for me it hints towards quality, and I liked the way that they mixed it up with the cabbage – but it really was crunchy. Some people like their vegetables crunchy. Some like them mushy. I prefer the middle ground. No, I’m not voting Laurence Fox.
There is no stag
I thought that the Yorkshire pudding was quite good. It was very large and yes I have posted a photograph on Instagrim as I am required to do by law of large yorkies. Definitely done quite a bit earlier as it had that aging crispiness, yet with sufficient unlimited gravy the bottom softened up nicely.
Also done much earlier, probably the day before, were the roast potatoes. A source of disappointment even more reliably so Downing Street wallpaper, these were suitably disappointing. A bit rubbery and just old – I’ve had worse and will have worse this year – kind of 4/10 level.
Sadly the pork belly was a little disappointing also. Plenty of it – I think the photographs seem a bit unfair as they make it look smaller than it was (I possibly nearly had need to upgrade my phone, as on the way to The Stag a moped made a suspicious pavement to road swerve right behind me…just as I was putting my phone back in my pocket) – or perhaps the fact that the pork belly was a bit tough made it feel like there was more than there really was.
The crackling on top was more tough than crunchy – I could barely rip it apart with my steak knife – and you know when pork belly does that kind of gooey crunchy goodness that melts in your mouth? There was none of that joyous feeling. The bottom part was tough also – yet the middle layer was respectably soft.
Finishing, as usual, on the gravy. It was quite thick and advertised as unlimited – with my two requests for extra gravy I did manage to at least slightly test this, though I decided against pushing it any further as the staff were clearly very, very busy. So the positive was the consistency, but the negative was that it was overly salty – not to the point of being ruinously salty, but to the point where 10 minutes after finishing, I could only taste salt. It did detract from the roast, a tad.
Not a stag party
Overall, the roast dinner at The Stag was a real collection of imperfections. I kind of enjoyed it, I was kind of satisfied – yet it is one of those where the more that I think about it, the more unimpressed I became.
The gravy was too salty, the pork belly a bit too tough and probably cooked long before being served. Disappointing roasties and some vegetables too al dente for personal tastes. I think the only items I complimented were the carrots and parsnips – though oddly I didn’t come away thinking I’d had a bad roast dinner.
I was kind of satisfied – yet there was room for improvement throughout. Around the table we differed in our ratings – one at 6.5, one at 7 and one at 8 – though he’s a proper weirdo so take that with a boat of salty gravy.
I’m scoring it a 6.63 out of 10.
There were other positives outside of the food – staff were friendly, the outdoor area does look like a good place for summer drinks, they had around 15-20 beers on and the red wine we had was reasonably priced at £18.50 a bottle – rather drinkable too. I could see me back here for drinks at some point – but the roast does need some work, I’m afraid.
Speaking of needing some work, I’m still not sure who my second preference will be for mayor (or even what the point is of voting for a first and second preference). I’m open to suggestions – as long as they aren’t Labour, Conservative, racist, not racist but, communist or related to a communist then feel free to tell me who to put for second choice. Though even with 20 candidates for mayor that doesn’t leave much choice.
Worked out who I’m voting for yet?
I’ll be back next week. I’ve been gazumped into going away from my to-do list and I’ve just looked at a couple of photographs of their roast dinners on Google – let’s just say that I’m no more hopeful of a good roast than I am that Count Binface win will become London Mayor.
Yeah, you guess correctly. Bin For The Win.
The Stag, Belsize Park
Station: Belsize ParkCamden Town
Tube Lines: Overground
Fare Zone: Zone 2
Loved & Loathed
Loved: Tasty carrots and parsnips, large outdoor area, decent list of beers
Loathed: Gravy too salty, pork belly too tough, roasties disappointing.