Muddy Eats: The Stag At Offchurch
Tucked up in a sleepy quaint hamlet in Offchurch, near Leamington Spa, is an attractive 16th Century thatched gastropub where the food is so good you’ll be scrapping to get a table on the weekend. We’re talking open fires, a snug bar area, the best locally sourced food, an extensive wine list and desserts in vintage tea cups. Offchurch, admittedly is a bit remote – three miles east of Leamington Spa, down winding country lanes off the Fosse Way, an old Roman road. You might be talking taxi here, but I think it’s worth it. On a Sunday lunch-time it’s rammed full of families, many in wellies with well-behaved dogs so you may need to book ahead. It has a lovely warm relaxed vibe.
Since it was renovated in 2009, The Stag has won many awards – Best Food Pub for the West Midlands and Wales, (Great British Pub Awards 2014), National Food Pub of the Year 2010, Les Routiers Newcomer of the Year 2011 and Publican Finalist 2011. So popular is The Stag, that Christmas Day in 2016 was already booked up last August, our waiter informed us. That’s crazy, I mean, can a real person actually be that organised?!
Set up by two protégées of Raymond Blanc, Charles Harris and Nigel Brown, The Stag places real emphasis on Anglo French dishes. Now a small family business, the CD Pubs Co has three sister pubs including The Moorings At Myton on the Grand Canal, close by in Leamington, which reopened in 2010 following a £250k maritime-inspired makeover. The two others are in Worcestershire – The Forest At Feckenham and The Chequers at Crowle, which has just won the Les Routiers’ Gastro Pub 2017 award.
We received a very warm welcome from the manager who took our phone booking and showed us to our table in the homely rustic bar. The Stag serves upmarket pub grub – think Lashford’s sausage of the week with mash, Roasted cod with Pommes mousseline, curly kale, clam & Pernod velouté, and Root vegetable pie. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly and passionate about what they do. The 13-page Wine list includes Sake, Swedish ciders, spirits and craft beers from around the world as well as an excellent selection of whites, reds, pinks and fizz. But a fruity glass of Bel Star, Prosecco with ‘citrus, pear & floral flavours’ (£4.80) was just fine for me.
Complimentary olives and a basket of pillowy soft French bread with Gloucestershire butter arrived at the table – ideal for mopping up the cheese sauce from the melt-in-the-mouth twice-baked Westcombe Cheddar soufflé starter.
The soufflé starter came with Chestnut cream, apple salad and Cheddar crisps.
Mr Muddy’s Wild mushroom & truffle mac & cheese starter was served on slate in a cute mini red casserole dish.
A lemon jus sauce accompanied my pan-fried salmon on a bed of spinach with a mushroom mash. The fish was deliciously crisp and the flavours were gorgeous.
One of the big draws is a variety of 28-day steaks from award-winning Midlands’ specialist butchers Aubrey Allen in Leamington Spa. This 80-year-old family butcher’s supplies many of Britain’s finest restaurant, as well as holding The Queen’s Royal Warrant. All steaks are traceable back to the farm where the beef was reared. They’re served with chips, half a roasted field mushroom, Watercress and a sauce of your choice (Pepper corn butter, bordelaise sauce or black truffle butter). But Mr Muddy and my mother fancied a Sunday roast – one corn-fed chicken breast and one roast pork with crispy crackling.
These were served with bowls of mashed swede and cauliflower cheese, as well as red and green cabbage. Seriously amazing and huge portions too – you’ll need your Bridget Jones elasticated pants if you come for a slap-up meal.
Children have a good choice of four mains – a mini Aubrey Allen rump steak (£9), sausage mash and chips, market fish goujons or tomato linguine. They also offer half portions from a selection of dishes on the a la Carte menu. Our girls’, aged 13 and 7, both went for the Market fish goujons with chips and peas which they thoroughly enjoyed and a scoop of ice-cream, for a reasonable £7 each.
For grown-ups, there’s six tantalising dessert choices, and a Cheese board (£8) from Crème Brulee with homemade shortbread to Queen of Puddings – jam sponge cake with meringue on top.
If, like me, you prefer a Coffee with a little Sweet there’s the option of a Mini Brulee, sliver of Chocolate Tart or Homemade Turkish delight (£6). The Stag was refurbished again in 2013. Although modernised and extended, it still retains the character of a lively village pub with stylish touches – Buddha’s, Foxglove wallpaper, decorative stags and huge glass vases filled with fresh flowers.
Around the corner of the bar there’s a large attractive restaurant dining area, with further seating in the conservatory. Both were full when we were there, so I can imagine it gets quite hectic.
There’s a well-appointed enclosed rear garden and outdoor seating area for warmer days with plenty of space for kids to run around, bloom laden hanging baskets, and a covered smoking den if you need a quick ciggie.
Lovely Leamington Spa is only three miles away with its Georgian and Edwardian architecture, award-winning Jephson Gardens, independent specialist boutiques, art galleries and the Royal Spa Centre; both Warwick and Kenilworth Castles are within easy reach and the fabulous Compton Verney Art Galley should you be looking to embark on a bracing walk, or explore and soak up a bit of culture.
The 6.5mile Offchurch Circular is a very popular, easy walk that starts and finishes at The Stag, taking in the delights of The Millennium Way – a beautiful Heart of England ramble – and part of the River Leam. I genuinely wish we could have spent longer here. It’s a fantastic spot for a family gathering, a meet-up with mates, or for a day out with walk attached.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Adventurous foodies, walkers, dog-lovers, families and fab Sunday roasts. Enjoy a quiet setting with lovely views of the rolling countryside and an excellent homely menu. A good spot if you need sustenance before or after a family walk.
Not for: I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like it here as there’s a real buzz about the place and the food’s excellent. Veggies beware, Sunday ‘Roasties’ are cooked in duck fat but our waiter was very keen to point this out as soon as he knew I was vegetarian.
££: Reasonable. Starters £4-10.50, mains £10.50-26 (for steak) and £5.50 – 6.75 for desserts. Sunday roasts £14.50-15.50. The children’s menu is £7-9 & includes one scoop of ice-cream.
Welsh Road, Offchurch, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV33 9AQ. Tel: 01926 425801. www.thestagatoffchurch.com