Yet again fate conspired against my random number generator selection so I left it up to my dining companions to decide and they plumped for the Bel & The Dragon.
I’ve eaten there a few times in the past – including having some truly excellent pork belly some years ago. It’s not the cheapest venue, and occasionally the food is too rich for my sausage-roll-loving northern palette, but generally I’ve always enjoyed my experiences there.
Actually there was one rather painful experience, many years ago, in my heavy partying days (also known as my 20’s), when I’d been out all night, plus an after-party and then the next evening a large group of us had our Christmas meal at Bel & The Dragon. I was in quite a pickle, I have memories only of rolling a sprout around a plate, not really being able to eat any of my £35 three course dinner, and having a dear older lady ask me what I found so endearing about house music – my dribbling discombobulated self about as able at talking clearly as I was at eating.
I am a tad more sensible nowadays, though whether paying £19.00 for a roast dinner suits that verb, I am not sure. I had some hope that the high price would be worth it when I read the small writing on the menu that the roast potatoes, meat and vegetables are cooked on an hourly basis. Ahhh bliss!
There was only one choice of roast – rib-eye of beef. Though we did have a choice of how it was cooked, and I wisely chose rare. The rest of the Sunday menu is here, if you fancy a glance. I really wished I could have chosen the suckling pig.
After 10 to 15 minutes, the meal arrived and I was again dribbling in this establishment – but for good reasons – just look at that beef.
The waiter (possibly kitchen hand) wished us a good meal. But something was missing – the roast potatoes and vegetables. So we enquired to him and his response was a Gallic shrug and the magical words “I don’t know”.
Shortly after, a pan of potatoes and vegetables arrived. We then asked him for the horseradish sauce (as advertised on the menu), to which we received another Gallic shrug. It arrived, I thought about asking for extra gravy but decided against confusing matters any further – I just wanted to get on with my meal.
Except I couldn’t.
Regular readers will know what is coming here. Peas.
Yes the medley of vegetables included peas, so I had to individually one by one pick my vegetables out, checking each for any possible intruders, as opposed to spooning a pile on my plate. Not that they had thought to provide a spoon.
Vegetables first and they were all on the crunchy side. So much so that the carrots seemed totally uncooked.
There was a fair selection, with a little broccoli, some cauliflower, and some sweet sugarsnap peas. All on the crunchy side (yeah I’m repeating myself here) and all rather uninspiring. The pick of the bunch was the cauliflower.
Onto the roast potatoes, cooked in duck fat, and these were 7 of the tastiest roast potatoes I have had for some time. Albeit I had to share the 7 roast potatoes with my dining companion. I had 4.
Duck fat really does make a delightful difference. However, only one of the 7 roast potatoes was actually properly crispy on the outside – one was slightly crispy, the others were totally lacking a crispy texture. But all were properly cooked, and reasonably fluffy on the inside. Good but could have been so much better.
The Yorkshire pudding on the other hand, was a total flop. Overcooked, dry and rather fluffy on the inside. It came far short of expectations.
Le rosbif. I watched a French film on Saturday night. Le Homme Du Train. Or maybe L’Homme Du Train. I’m about as good at languages as most pubs are at roast potatoes. I scrape by but make many mistakes. It was a really intriguing and charming film. But you don’t care. You want to know about the beef.
Given how much we paid, thankfully the roast beef was really excellent. I had asked for rare and received rare. It was exceptionally tender, with just the right amount of seasoning on the outer edges to contrast with the rarity of the inner beef. Intriguing and charming too.
Rib-eye when done well is a fine cut of beef, especially with the little bits of fat around the edge, and this was truly enjoyable. Although a steak knife would have made my life a little easier.
It seemed an after-thought but the jus was actually enjoyable. It had the consistency of a good gravy, but without any overpowering taste – it was complimentary. If a northerner doesn’t complain about having jus instead of gravy then something has gone well.
It’s a tricky one to rate this. Such excellent beef, yet a mixture of decency and disappointment otherwise and for £19.00 – one expects all elements to at least be good. I do keep mentioning the price.
And the service was generally poor. The welcome was excellent, and the lady who took our order was professional and pleasant. However it went downhill with the confused kitchen hand that brought our meal out and a total lack of attention afterwards. We eventually managed to catch someone’s eye to ask for the bill. A while later, someone asked if we wanted a dessert. Plus a lack of appropriate cutlery at times. I would understand at a pub, but not when one is paying £19.00. Expectations not fulfilled.
They didn’t even come over the take our payment – again we were waiting for some time. At least we got some branded M&M’s.
Oh I mentioned the price again. Bloody Yorkshire folk.
I popped into the Lyndhurst on the way home and was discussing the Bel & The Dragon with a couple of people in there, and they advised me that the venue isn’t quite what it was from what they heard. I’d be interested in any thoughts of yours if you have been.
I’m going to give it a 6.9 out of 10. I do wonder if I am being too generous – were it not for the beef then it would have been struggling around the 5 mark. But that the brilliance of the beef is the stand-out thought despite all else, shows they are doing something very right. Just not enough things very right.
Next week, I will go to my random number generator selection made weeks ago. I will go there. Although I have just noticed that there are no trains out of Bracknell next Sunday. Hmmmm. Why did I move to Bracknell?