It was a case of three times lucky at a visit to The Stables.
I’ve twice before tried to eat at this popular pub, only to be told they’re fully booked. Moral of the story? Always book ahead at The Stables.
Once I finally managed to get a table, but only because we arrived prior to the 6.30pm rush, I could see what all the fuss is about.
It’s tucked away in a residential area, but you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the heart of the countryside, especially this time of year when its quintessentially English garden is blooming lovely. However, its actual location near houses means parking is at a premium.
The ceilings are low and atmospheric and the stone walls are adorned with all manner of curiosities, from worn saddles and musical instruments to golf clubs and tankards.
It’s all a little bit worn around the edges, but that’s part of its charm.
The menu is as traditional as the trinkets. There’s nothing too fandangled or fancy on the list, it’s proper, filling pub grub, and certainly not for those who are counting the calories.
Starters offer regular choices, such as potato skins for £2.95 and smoked salmon (£4.95), but there’s also a couple of comforting classics that don’t often make an appearance these days, such as haggis, neeps and tatties (£3.95) and black pudding with peppercorn sauce (£3.95).
I chose the king prawns in garlic butter (£4.95).
Service was friendly enough, but not too in-your- face, and it was certainly swift. I guess you have to be when a place is as popular as this.
Our starters arrived promptly and were plentiful. My portion featured four large prawns, complete with shells – with a handy bowl to clean your digits – and a large side salad. What made the dish was the garlic butter. I’m not often a fan of this sauce: in the wrong hands it can be a tad unctuous. This version, however, packed just the right amount of flavour without being over-bearing and didn’t detract from the lighter nuances of the shellfish.
Mains are also a stodgy affair, with hearty options such as steak and ale pie (£7.95) and belly pork (£10.95). I’ve been trying to cut down on carbs, but there’s no shying away from them here. I chose pan-fried salmon fillet on a bed of chilli and lime risotto. At £7.95, it was cheaper than I’ve paid elsewhere for this cut of fish and was served as a large slab.
The salmon flaked to perfection under my fork while the bed of risotto was a meal in itself. The rice had just the right amount of firmness, whilst still maintaining the creamy risotto texture. Meanwhile, the addition of the lime and chilli provided a zesty kick.
My friend’s choice of crab linguine was also a taste bud triumph. It had more of a ‘trendy’ presentation and was served on one of those black slate tiles that have become the serving dish of choice at gastro pubs.
The creative flair of the pub doesn’t stop at the decor and this dish came presented in an open crab shell spilling forth with oodles of linguine.
The pasta was punctuated with plenty of meaty chunks of crab and there was just enough chilli to give the dish a kick without him having to reach for a glug of water.
Parsley provided a dash of colour and an extra layer of flavour. My friend enjoyed this dish so much in fact, they recreated it at home – minus the shell crab. A ringing endorsement of any dish.