The Stag, Barkston
Carla Watt visited The Stag at Barkston to enjoy the fine food and hospitality offered by the Loveridge family.
My dining out evenings are nearly always on a Friday so it was no surprise to find The Stag at Barkston was already bustling with guests when we entered. This is a handsome inn, with a mellow stone frontage on Church Street and its car park alongside. At the rear is an attractive patio area leading to a herb garden, the source of some of the ingredients for the kitchen’s dishes.
The Stag has been owned by the Loveridge family since 2014. Both Samantha, who runs front of house and Mike, head chef, have impressive experience within the hospitality industry in this region which naturally led to them securing their own business. Their three children are also involved with Matt running the bar, Sarah keeping the restaurant operating smoothly and Emma stepping in when extra hands are needed.
Once through the front entrance, turning right leads to the bar and left into the restaurant; we headed to the bar and received a warm welcome from Samantha. There is a conservatory facing the garden which can be used as a private dining space for up to 20. The Stag has been refurnished this year to a high specification, keeping the traditional feel of a country inn with stag motifs to the scheme, tartan carpet in the restaurant, flagstone floor in the bar, natural wood and exposed brickwork, giving a hunting lodge feel to the interior.
We sat at benches outside to enjoy our drink on what had probably been one of the last gloriously hot days of the year. We made our choices from three menus, either Pub Classics, the Evening Menu or a choice of daily specials on the blackboard before being seated at our table.
I began with an assortment of field mushrooms, tomato, roast pepper and chorizo served on a slice of toasted garlic ciabatta. The sauce was wonderfully rich and this could have been a light meal itself, served as a generous portion, with the added bite and warmth from the chorizo. My companion chose homemade chicken liver pâté served with red onion and tomato chutney, gherkins and doorstep toast; second delicious entrée to our meal which was thoroughly enjoyed.
These were both choices from the Evening Menu and others included a homemade soup, or deep fried fresh devilled whitebait with a lemon and chive mayonnaise or a pulled pork and black pudding Scotch egg served with homemade brown sauce.
My main course was one of the daily specials; pan fried salmon steak served on crushed new potatoes with a lemon butter sauce. I was pleased I had ordered a lighter main course option but this was still a substantial, thoroughly enjoyable dish and I loved the delicate sauce. On the other side of the table a fillet steak, topped with Stilton cheese and served with a port wine gravy, chips and garnishings was equally appreciated.
Other choices included roast loin of cod, chargrilled corn fed chicken breast with a smoked bacon and mushroom cream sauce, twice cooked belly pork with a cider gravy or a creamy leek, courgette and pea risotto topped with Gorgonzola.
At this point we did need to take a break of a few minutes before we could even contemplate the dessert menu.
It gave me chance to see that this is a lively rendezvous for villagers and draws plenty of guests from the surrounding area. Walkers will find the bar dog friendly and events such as a monthly Quiz Night on each first Tuesday or the fortnightly Meat Raffle are popular.
We finally could resist the desserts no longer, so finished with baked vanilla cheesecake served with warm chocolate sauce for me and lemon posset with a berry compote for my fellow diner. What showstoppers for the end of a delicious meal in relaxed and very comfortable surroundings. Service from Samantha and her staff was exceptional.
The Loveridge family deserve the success they have achieved so far, serving good quality beers, cooking with locally sourced ingredients for their menus and offering the warmth of hospitality which invites customers to return. Their Christmas menus are now available although it is not surprising they are already fully booked for Christmas Day. There are plenty of other opportunities throughout this autumn and festive season to visit The Stag and we shall certainly be going back to explore those menus further.