Featured Restaurant: The King Stag

23rd November 2018

15 Bournehall Road • Bushey • WD23 3EH • 020 8950 2988

Reviewed by Lisa Botwright

Decor-wise, this Bushey gastro-pub manages to hit the perfect sweet spot between trendy and traditional. It stylishly nails ‘modern country cottage’, with its slouchy sofas, scrubbed wooden tables, mismatched crockery and quirky lampshades; and the overall effect is cosy and inviting, rather than self-conscious.

The menu reflects this sophisticated, yet unpretentious broad appeal. There’s a great kids’ menu, with lots of simple healthy choices, and even a section for our four-legged best friends, which makes me smile. If your pooch is a little peckish, they can dine on a pig’s ear hors d’oeuvre or a King Stag Burger main.

The Husband (H) and I have neither dogs nor young children with us, and we turn our attention eagerly to the grown-ups’ main menu. After some umming and ahing over whether to choose the Confit Duck Salad as a starter or main, H decides on the latter, and goes for Maple Glazed Salt Beef, with pickles and horseradish cream to start. I opt for Whitely Neill Gin Cured Salmon with orange and dill cream cheese, followed by Pan Roasted Pheasant with parsnip purée, tender stem broccoli and blackberry jus.

The salt beef is a surprise to us both, but I realise that’s because neither of us have ever properly experienced this dish before. We’re expecting slices of cured beef, like slices of ham, but we’re presented with two generous cuts of meat, a good pinky-red colour, which fall apart after the gentlest nudge from H’s fork. The meat has obviously had some serious love and attention to get it so meltingly tender. Our only disappointment is with the sides. The colourful, vinegary pickles come in a little side dish, and look very pretty, but taste more like marinated peppers and lack the requisite tangy crunch to balance the sweetness of the meat. There’s also very little heat from the horseradish cream, which sadly appears to be all cream and no horseradish (…I even wonder if the kitchen forgot to add it?)

My salmon is delicious: the gin-cured slices thicker, tastier and more robust than the usual smoked salmon. The dill cream cheese has just the right amount of the pungent herb, and the slices of fresh orange are a delight: the tart pop of citrus makes everything taste so fresh and zingy.

It paves the way perfectly for my pheasant main, which is much more rich and comforting: very autumnal. The poultry is roasted on the bone, and has a seared crispy skin. Its flavour is mild and gamy; think chicken with ‘an edge’, and is enhanced by the flavourful, deep ruby jus. The sweet and creamy texture of the parsnip purée is balanced by the addition of an artful pile of parsnip crisps, which I love; they add an interesting bite to an already delicious dish.

H’s duck salad is much lighter; although no less filling. It’s a lively, healthful abundance of red cabbage, carrots, mixed leaves, watermelon and seeds, tossed with an umami hit of duck morsels dressed in hoisin sauce. There’s a good amount of duck and the proportions are generous.

But even so, we find there’s still room for ‘afters’. The dessert menu is very tempting, with some clever seasonal twists. I’m quite taken with the idea of Spiced Plum Eton Mess, but we opt instead for the Dark Chocolate Brownie
(with two spoons), served warm on a bed of sour cherry sauce. It’s close-your-eyes-to-savour-the-moment good.

Judging by the packed bar and the buzz of the surrounding tables; this is a deservedly popular ‘proper local,’ with great food and a welcoming atmosphere.

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