The Bald Faced Stag is as proud and graceful as its namesake. Quality food in a cosy home-away-from-home environment make it the ideal spot for East Finchley locals and anyone who happens to find themselves in this neck of the woods.
A minute’s walk from East Finchley’s famed Phoenix Cinema, it won’t be hard to miss the looming structure of the Bald Faced Stag. This impressive site has a long history, serving horsemen and their coaches that passed along the Great North Turnpike Road in the early 18th Century.
As you enter, the cosy bar area is rather small and intimate for such a large building; however, this only adds to its charm. As you find a nook to slip into with your beer, whilst surrounded by a hodgepodge of mismatched furniture, you’ll notice that the numerous rooms are decorated in rich, dark colours, and the soft lighting echoes the muddled fittings with large, exquisite candelabras at one end of the bar and modern, subtle chandeliers at the other.
The main feature of the Bald Faced Stag, however, can be found or - more correctly - smelt, around the corner. The large, handsome rear dining room with a shiny open-plan kitchen is an impressive sight. With enough space to comfortably serve 85 people, the dining room is vast, with dark walls, subtle lighting, and diner style booths along one side of it, giving the feeling of a 1920s speakeasy, only with better food. Exiting through the doors in the dining area will take you outside to an impressive beer garden, sitting under its main feature - a huge, ancient sycamore tree.
The warm, comfortable interior with its dark walls, Chesterfield leather chairs, low level lighting and not a plasma screen in sight, suggest this isn’t a venue to celebrate in when the match is on. The mixed clientele of the local work crowd, young North Londoners and dating couples, fill the small bar area with the constant buzz of good conversation, whilst the relentless fine smells radiating from the nearby kitchen make your belly rumble.
The staff are on the ball, ready to offer a friendly suggestion on what wine to choose or which bar snack will go best with your pint and the low murmur of guests enjoying themselves in the dining area is a constant reminder that the Bald Faced Stag is a great venue for catching up over dinner.
The modern British menu at the Bald Faced Stag is designed to impress.
Starters (£4-£11) set the tone of the rest of the menu with eclectic entrees. The chilli and garlic prawns in olive oil is a highlight. Seven generously sized, plump prawns are served on a hot plate, sizzling in olive oil. Taking care not to incinerate your fingers, these succulent and juicy prawns are well complemented by the sweet garlic flavours, but beware of the chillies - they pack a real punch. A great vegetarian starter is the goat cheese tartlet with onion marmalade and pesto. The tartlet arrives piled high with a hefty slab of fried goat cheese teetering on top of a bed of salad. Hidden underneath is the crumbly tartlet, filled with a sticky-sweet onion marmalade. The cheese melts perfectly with the caramelised onion and crumbly base.
For mains (£11-£18) there’s an excellent choice of meat and fish dishes. The 28 day aged rib eye steak is thick and juicy with hardly any fat. The steak comes served on a wooden chopping board so you can really go at it. Cooked to perfection, the accompanying bearnaise sauce and confit tomatoes complement the flavours wonderfully. It also comes served with an unnecessary but otherwise excellent bowl of fat chips. Another option is the rump of lamb with roasted sweet potatoes and rosemary jus. Five tender cuts of lamb arrive on a large white plate, topped with a sprinkling of homemade sweet potato crisps. The succulent flavours of the lamb blend excellently with the roasted layers of sweet potato, and it is evident in the flavour that this meat has been slow-cooked until tender. Garlic spinach is a tasty accompaniment to any of the meat dishes, offering a sweet and juicy retreat from what can normally be a bland dish.
The dessert menu (£4-£5) will have anyone with a sweet tooth salivating for more. The vanilla creme brulee is excellent. Presented in a large white dish, crisped to golden perfection, it is served with a portion of lemon shortbread. Nothing beats the sound of that crispy topping, cracking when tapped with the spoon, and the combination of the sweet and sour lemon shortbread with the delicious creamy brulee is first rate. Another favourite is the vanilla panna cotta with poached figs. Slightly bland but paired wonderfully with the figs, the panna cotta melts in the mouth.
A Sunday roast is also available on the weekend between 12pm-9.30pm with a selection of three choices of meat and all the sides for £12-£14. However, if all of this is simply too much for your belly or wallet to handle, a great selection of snacks, with some unusual suggestions thrown in (salt and pepper squid with your pint?) can be found at the bar, ranging from £2-£6.
The food is a great reason to visit the Bald Faced Stag, but the laudable selection of beer, ale and cider is another. The bar offers a dependable range of the usual suspects on tap from Kronenbourg to Heineken and you will also find some less usual offerings such as the delicious Portuguese beer Sagres and an ever changing array of real ales. Aspalls cider is a great choice on a hot day, perfect for quenching your thirst without being too gassy.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on tap, they also offer an eclectic wine list exhibited in large writing on the chalk board over the bar. Whether you are enjoying dinner or just fancy a bottle, the considerable list covers all budgets, from £3.50 for a glass of red or white, to £40 for a bottle of Chateauneuf Du Pape. The Melopee de Gavoty - a dry rose with a crisp, light and fruity finish - is highly recommended with any meat dish.
The Last Word
Whilst not the cheapest option for dining out, this smart gastro pub offers a vast choice of delicious, robust food in decadent surroundings with a relaxed atmosphere.