The Stagger Inn, Stainton

The first two times I ate at the Stagger Inn in Stainton were memorable - but for the wrong reasons. The pub was so dark on my inaugural visit that I could barely see what I was eating; and on the second visit, while the place seemed a little lighter, the food was so bad that I regretted being able to see it, let alone have to eat it.

That was all a number of years ago, when the pub was under different ownership; and it's taken me until this week to return, to see how the Stagger Inn is faring in its latest incarnation as part of the Lucidity Group - which also now owns The Dunes and The Townhouse in Barrow.

I had recently helped organise a fundraiser at The Dunes and had been mightily impressed with every aspect: would the Stagger Inn perform as highly?

The short answer to that is a resounding yes.

My husband Gordon and I headed there this Tuesday, driving through a pea-souper of a foggy afternoon for lunch.

We were greeted warmly by a charming man, who guided us into the lovely - and light - dining room, complete with Christmas decorations and a roaring log burner. Feeling festive, we ordered drinks to see us through our menu perusal.

The lunchtime menu at the Stagger is understandably slightly smaller than the dinner menu - but there is still plenty of choice. Eschewing the lighter bites, Gordon chose a winter ploughman's (£9.95), which comprised homemade soup of the day (the day's choices were seafood bisque or curried parsnip - Gordon chose the former), ham hock terrine, apple wood cheese, fresh crusty bread, salad and gherkins. I was intrigued by the Smoked Haddock Broon (£12.95), a twist on the classic fish and chips, using smoked haddock.

Neither of us was remotely disappointed. The ploughman's was a perfect winter's smorgasbord of rich flavours and textures, Gordon adoring the seafood bisque, which was deeply satisfying. The hock terrine was rustic and well-textured, the cheese nutty and the the whole dish a delight.

My Broon was immense: a perfectly-cooked piece of haddock, smoked but subtly so; and the waiter told us that people trying it were pleasantly surprised by the flavours. The fish was in a crisp and thick beer batter, and was accompanied by the classics: thick, luscious chips, a bowl of tartare sauce, lemon wedges and a minted pea puree. Delicious.

Both staff who served us were friendly and attentive; and they earn an extra tick for turning the music down in the dining room (when we were the only customers left) without our having to ask.

The decor looks new and stylish, the dark-as-a-coalpit daftness long gone. The waiter informed us that in days gone by, clued-up customers would actually bring torches with them in order to be able to read the menus - how ridiculous is that? Thank goodness the new owners understand ambience.

For pudding Gordon chose a cranachen, which is a traditional Scottish pudding involving oats and whisky. The Stagger Inn cranachen was a twist on this, with a raspberry parfait and a raspberry and whisky compote. The oats were presented as a a side element to the dish - and it was both quirky and lovely.

Clearly, the new owners at the Stagger Inn are making their own, distinctive mark. The food is excellent, inventive and high quality, the staff and management are both friendly and clearly talented, and the surroundings are stylish and welcoming. A welcome new chapter for this popular village pub.

Food 5

Service 5

Value 4.5

Atmosphere 4.5


You no longer need to wear a head torch to read the menu Interesting takes on classic dishes Friendly and welcoming


Getting there by public transport might be difficult