Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bel & The Dragon, Churt



Need a time out from London?! Head for the Bel & The Dragon - It’s amazing what you can find just an hour away from the Capital

There’s only one thing to do when there’s a tube strike on in London… Deal with the delays and the traffic tailbacks, or head out of town for a couple of days.  Definitely a wise choice, we opted for the latter, packed up the car and drove out to charming Churt where the delightful Bel & The Dragon Hotel is located.
Food, wine and relaxation were high on the list for our stay and thankfully, all three were to be found here.  




The Bel & The Dragon is a lovingly restored Country Inn which has just 14 beautifully decorated  rooms, styled by an interior designer.  The restaurant is situated to the right of reception and looks like a cosy oversized farmhouse kitchen complete with fire place, wooden tables and chairs and beautiful views out towards the surrounding woodland.


We were given a warm welcome at reception by the manager Mike who seemed more like an old friend than someone we’d just met.  Mike was more than happy to give us a tour of the hotel, explaining that all of the rooms are named after characters from the novels of Jane Austen!  Just along from our beautiful double room, was a tea and coffee hub offering every refreshment imaginable – along with 2 delicious whiskeys!   A perfect night cap we were told!


The room itself (each is individually designed), was impeccably clean, stylish and contemporary with a country twist.  The bed a sumptuous super king size was super comfortable and perfect to relax in front of a very large HD flat screen tv!  The bathroom was modern, with a good bath and shower, complimentary shower gels and lotions, and under floor heating which was perfect for a chilly, rainy night.


After freshening up, we made our way down to the restaurant.  We’d made a reservation for 8pm and the booths and tables were already filling up, with groups of golfers, friends, and couples young and old – a real testament to the variety offered by the menu, as there really is something to suit everyone.


Our waitress took great care in explaining the menu, which I was particularly impressed with and the specials were also described to us in the greatest of detail – again, brilliant…  Top marks to the staff who were really clued up when it came to the food.  We were told the kitchen also houses a fantastic josper grill which cooks meats at around 400 degrees, sealing the meat instantly and locking in the delicious flavours.


After studying what appeared to be a really well thought out menu (most of the food is seasonal and locally sourced), we focused our attentions on the wine list, which boasted a really fantastic selection of amazing wines which you’ll find are extremely well priced (the same bottle of wine in London would set you back considerably more.)  My friend and I had just been discussing our love for Rose – even though it’s not necessarily top of the list when you go out for dinner, but Mike had the perfect suggestion - a Rose Remauresq Cru Classe 2012 which was beautifully pale and pink in colour and clean and fresh on the palate.  It went exceptionally well with our starters – a plentiful portion of beautifully crisp Pink Peppercorn Squid accompanied with a delightfully sweet chili jam, and the Marinated Beetroot, Creamy Burrata, Basil Pesto and Pine Nuts.  Both dishes really were full of flavour and presented well… the beetroot, delicate and fragrant and the burrata, thick, creamy and extremely more-ish.  The dish also came decorated with lots of tiny little flowers which was really charming!


Mains were difficult to choose – simply because there was such a wonderful choice – duck, chicken, pig, steak and lobster made it hard to come to a decision!  I opted for the Roasted Suckling Pig which arrived on a wooden slab (again, beautifully presented), with crispy crackling, spiced apple chutney, perfectly crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside roast potatoes, and a jug of gravy.  Heaven.  My friend was keen on experiencing something cooked on the Josper Grill and went for the Marinated and Chargrilled Sirloin Steak which was served with roasted vine tomatoes, peppercorn sauce and a huge serving of door-step sized chips!  The meat was cooked medium - as requested, and as described by our waitress, it really did have an amazing amount of flavour – slightly smoky, almost sweet and of course very very meaty!


The portion sizes were very generous, so it was through pure greed (and for the purpose of the review) that we also went for dessert.  We tried both the Rhubarb Fool served in a tall glass and swirled with crushed ginger biscuits and delicious mascarpone, and the Traditional Eton Mess, which had just the right amount of meringue, strawberry and whipped cream to make it that little bit special.


As somewhat of an Espresso Martini connoisseur (or so I like to think), I thought it was only fair to see how the Bel & The Dragon measured up….surely no match for the fancy cocktail bars in London we frequent?!  Well, actually, perfect!  Just the right amount of Vodka and Kahlua, so that it didn’t taste too strong  and then that gorgeous smooth kick from the espresso.  Really, really delicious!


While we’re on the subject of drinks, it’s worth mentioning that the house wine is actually served in magnums – a quirky, cool idea and definitely value for money, because you only pay for what you drink!  The Bel & The Dragon also has a long standing relationship with one of Burgundy’s greatest wine producers , a man called Oliver Leflaive who actually produces a pinot noir exclusively for the Bel, named after his daughter – the ‘Cuvee Margot’.  You’ll also find some really great vintages on the wine list with no great mark up, so you can be sure you’re really getting a fantastic wine at a fraction of the price.


After a nightcap in the bar, which was cosy, well lit (and well stocked with some fantastic local ales) and a really lovely night’s sleep, we enjoyed an early breakfast, with tea, coffee and newspapers.  Big wedges of toast, crispy bacon and slightly sweet tasting scrambled egg – the perfect consistency and the kind you wish you could cook up at home yourself!  And then with slightly heavy hearts, we packed up the car and anticipated how much traffic we might have to face heading back into the capital on another day of tube strikes!


I’d say one night really wasn’t enough.  A delightful, relaxing retreat with great quality locally sourced food, absolutely amazing wine, and staff that make you feel right at home.  Mike said it had been a pleasure to have us and he hoped we came back soon.  I have a feeling he meant every word…


From £115 per room per night:

Bel & The Dragon

Jumps Road

Churt

Farnham

Surrey

GU10 2LD





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