Weekend breakfasts are a clever new addition to the line-up at this likeable neighbourhood gastropub. The Bald-Faced Stag is large enough to suit many occasions. Its pleasant garden, featuring a huge sycamore tree, welcomes diners, drinkers and smokers (the latter doing little to diminish the atmosphere, given the traffic on the A1000). Effort is put into the draught beer selection, with Cornish Trelawny and Sambrook’s Wandle on tap during our visit. Many customers, though, come for the interesting choice of 16 wines by the glass.
The capacious, purpose-built dining room apes classic gastropub decor; the bar is more cheerful. Curiously, the set lunch menu showed better cooking and greater generosity than our à la carte options, which unanimously disappointed. Nicely cooked, fresh-tasting pollack was let down by gritty spinach and an over-mild sweetcorn velouté. Much better was the crisp-topped slab of pork belly with ham-hock potato cake and red cabbage, preceded by tender chicken livers on balsamic-flavoured toast. Sticky toffee pudding was a good rendition, whereas a slice of blueberry cheesecake (meagre, ugly, broken) was outclassed by its accompanying raspberry ripple ice-cream (not a good flavour match either). Service needed a giddy-up to show its friendly efficiency.