There’s a board outside the Three Stags that proclaims it’s ‘sustainable’, without actually explaining whether that means the food, the beer or the fact that the pub has so far survived the carnage of pub closures that’s hit the capital.
The explanation is that the Three Stags wins awards for its environmental sustainability, sourcing products from responsible suppliers and making sure their green credentials are held at the centre of all they do, which is a perfectly good reason for them to be included as one of the best pubs in the area.
"The food menu is impressive, and of course environmentally laudable."
This Kennington gastropub ensures it’s at the height of sustainability in some pretty normal ways: carefully sourced produce, only using sustainable fish, stocking as many British ingredients as possible, not serving bottled water.
They also have some more quirky initiatives; they are working with schools and local people to put to use vegetables grown in local allotments, have built a roof garden to grow leaves all year round, and installed a beehive on their roof to supply themselves with honey.
They’re also big supporters of English wine, the Fish Fight project and have been awarded a coveted 3 stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
The Three Stags pub in Kennington Road, London has been awarded a three star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association for its efforts in creating a sustainable pub.
Mark Linehan, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association said: "Richard and his team at The Three Stags have proved that sustainability is just as achievable in the heart of London in a pub as it is in a fine dining restaurant in the depths of the countryside. The Three Stags is a brilliant example of how a commitment to the values that most customers now demand can achieve the very highest standards of sustainability."
You know The Three Stags isn’t your usual kind of pub the minute you step into the little glassed-in corner booth marked “Chaplin Corner”. This is the snug bar where the great silent comedian’s father, also called Charles, is said to have sat and drunk, in between engagements as a music-hall artiste.
In keeping with the pub’s personality, the food is clearly prepared with care; chips come served in attractive little blue mugs, while the chicken pieces inside my baguette (£8) are freshly barbecued, and The Three Stags is the proud holder of the Waterloo Quarter Food Festival Best Burger title.
In the dead of night a pair of burly chefs haul a suspicious bloody package off the back of a van and down into the bowels of a south London pub. Although what happens next involves a bone saw and an assortment of razor-sharp knives, this isn’t a scene from a Guy Ritchie movie – rather an impromptu lesson in butchering down primal cuts led by James Brown of The Three Stags in Lambeth.
Weighing-in at a hefty 80kg, this 4am delivery is actually a forequarter of biodynamic beef.
The primary reason head chef Brown buys-in such unwieldy sections of the animal is that it allows him to offer customers a considerably higher grade of meat.
“We source our beef and lamb from Heritage Prime, a biodynamic and free-range farm in Dorset,” he explains. “It produces some of the best meat in the country, and it would be impossible to serve it in a pub of this level if we ordered it from a butcher in individual cuts.”
Free-range, organic ingredients, vegetables grown on the roof and its own beehive - James Brown, head chef at the Three Stags in Kennington, London, tells Matthew Moggridge how to create a buzz with the punters.
Kennington isn’t an area short of pubs, and certainly not pubs of the modern, gastro variety. The Tommyfield and The Old Red Lion are a couple of them which have been reviewed and very positively rated in this paper over the last year.
The sense of community at The Three Stags blows the competition out of the water, though. It’s tangible from the moment of stepping inside; this is no dining room with a bit of space for people to drink, rather this is a proper pub that just happens to serve food.
With that in mind, the sheer quality of food on offer is a brilliant surprise. A ham hock terrine served with homemade piccalilli and toasted spelt bread makes a satisfyingly butch and hearty starter, whilst a main of roast pork belly - which comes from the same Chiltern farm as the meat for the terrine - boasts unctuously soft meat nestled teasingly beneath an almighty roof of audibly crispy crackling.
Hat’s off to the chef, because it can’t be far from being perfectly executed.
Sitting on the corner of a crossroads, with the Imperial War Museum opposite, The Three Stags could best be described as a prime example of an old London pub. Built in 1891 the pub and its bar has many original features including a snug that looks like it’s been unchanged since it was originally fitted out. Under the ownership of Richard Bell, The Three Stags has, like many London pubs, been transformed, adding ‘gastro’ to its description in recent years.
In talking to Richard, he is an enthusiastic supporter of sourcing produce as locally as he can, indeed, some from his own rooftop, and in recent times he has become a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. He proudly told us that in his short period of membership he has already fulfilled 15 pledges with the association.