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Food & Drink: taste test: The right stuff; that is if you don't mind being watched over by dead animals as you eat.

Byline: Oliver Fennell at The Stag Inn, Llangernyw

JIM Carrey's 1995 film Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls features a scene when the animal-loving hero of the title reels in shock when confronted with an African game hunter's room full of stuffed trophies. When asked if something is wrong, Ace replies: 'Of course not, this is a lovely room of death.'

A similar impression was gained from the interior of the Stag Inn as I settled down to a Saturday lunch with my grandparents. One stuffed stag's head for the sake of tying in with the name, fine... but three? Add to that a fox's head and a whole polecat, again stuffed and mounted, and we have a venue which is not recommended for pet detectives.

However the Stag's deeply rural location - bored children could pass the time on the drive there by counting the pro-hunting placards along the way - means the majority of the clientele are probably not perturbed by such sights.

As well as the taxidermist's work, there is a whole slew of curios attached to the walls and ceilings of this traditional old pub. Seemingly selected at random, there are items including ancient sewing machines and typewriters, pairs of wellies, axes, animal traps and more all crammed in to every available wall and ceiling space in the dining area.

Anyway, I was here on the recommendation of my grandparents. They too have their reservations about the interior decorating, but have visited on several occasions because of the good food, pleasant service and unspoilt village location. Indeed, Llangernyw got my grandad reminiscing about weekends spent in the countryside as a child, with no electricity and the heavy-handed religious zeal of his family's bucolic elders, who enforced a ban even on playing during Sundays.

But back to the present day and the fare on offer. The menu was predominantly standard British pub food, with a few alternatives from Asia and the Americas to lift it above the ordinary.

A number of special offers, starting at pounds 2.95 and rising in pounds 1 increments up to pounds 5.95, were also to be had. There was a wine list, but we ordered two beers and a cider from the bar instead.

For starters, I had Buffalo Chicken, consisting of battered goujons, a Cajun sauce and a hearty helping of salad, which made it look bigger than it was (a good thing for a starter). The chicken was crispy and perfectly complemented by the tangy sauce.

My grandad had soup of the day (leek and potato), an unspectacular but satisfying stalwart. Meanwhile, grandma was less impressed with her cheesy garlic mushrooms.

Anticipating stuffed mushrooms or the breadcrumbed variety, she was surprised to be presented instead with what looked more like a porridge.

The mushrooms were inside a thick, grey sauce made with garlic, blue cheese and cream. She said it tasted OK but the texture suggested they had used too much flour.

So the starters were a mixed bag. What of the main courses?

Our choices were unpretentious. Lamb chops for grandad, an eight ounce steak for grandma, and Dunster pork for me.

The pork was served in a sauce of orange, honey and wholegrain mustard and I chose chips and peas to go with it. The sauce was an excellent taste combination and very suited to pork.

Grandad was pleased with his lamb - we share the opinion that you can very rarely go wrong with Wales' most famous meat, and so it proved again.

Steak is less reliable than lamb, especially if you have it well done and without a sauce, as grandma did. But I'm pleased to report it passed the test. A well done steak that is not dry and retains its flavour is surely a testament to both the quality of the meat and the skill of the chef.

Having had a heavier than usual lunch, none of us were in a position to take dessert, although we noted for future reference that options included enticing homemade options such as rhubarb crumble and bread and butter pudding, the intriguingly titled entries lemon shock and chocolate lumpy bumpy, and again a couple of Asian and American options, among others.

So with that, we waved goodbye to the friendly and prompt service, the generally good food, the eccentric interior and its inhabitants - living or otherwise

the bill

soup pounds 2.25 buffalo chicken pounds 3.75 cheesy garlic mushrooms pounds 3.95 large lamb chops pounds 5.95 dunster pork pounds 9.95 8oz steak pounds 5.95 drinks pounds 7.60 total pounds 39.40

the verdict

ambience typical saturday afternoon

pub feel service fast and friendly decor full of dead animals on and random artefacts

opening hours noon-2pm and

6pm-8.45pm daily for food, normal pub hours for drinks disabled access all on ground level with no steps, but no dedicated toilet

The Stag Inn 860213 Llangernyw, 01745 near Abergele


A hearty meal at The Stag Inn will leave you almost as stuffed as the animals adorning the walls
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 11, 2005
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