For those wishing to escape London and enjoy a little piece of old England with a personal fine dining experience, the 15th century Bel & The Dragon coaching inn in Cookham offers upscale country-chic rooms and modern British cuisine, giving you a taste of Old England with cosy roaring log fires and and reasonably priced regular supper clubs. Headed up by Executive Head Chef Ronnie Kimbugwe, they offer a three course menu paired with fine champagne.
Only 29 miles from London, Bel & The Dragon sits on Cookham village’s picture postcard high street which has changed little in appearance over the centuries.
I was invited to join the first Supper Club of 2018 with their partner, the renowned Champagne House Laurent-Perrier. The evening was hosted by Lauren Perrier’s UK Managing Director, David Hesketh, who gave us a fascinating insight into the company’s 200 year old history as well as giving us a taste of their finest champagnes. Remarkable to think that a company founded in 1812, by Monsieur Laurent, are still a family-owned brand and continue to make some of the world’s most elegant champagnes. Along with a daily glass of champagne, David told us that he still feels privileged to be part of a company whose legacy and experience in wine-making continues to thrill people whatever the occasion!
To match the fine champagnes, Executive Head Chef Ronnie, who is a former sous chef of Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, created a really delicious, well-presented three-course menu of Torbay scallops with black pepper, roasted watermelon and pea puree, which was followed by a tender slow-roasted Guinea fowl with spring truffle, new potatoes and watercress. As a finale, he created a warm gooey chocolate fondant with wild raspberry sorbet. A love of chocolate is no doubt shared by the inn’s co-owner, chocolate heir Joel Cadbury, who completely renovated Bel & The Dragon in 2010.
Executive Head Chef Ronnie has been there since the beginning and he told us that he is always trying to create menus which are full of twists on an array of classic British dishes, with a focus on local, sustainable and, above all, quality ingredients. “I constantly try to push boundaries in the kitchen, creating dishes using seasonal and local produce. Food is central to Bel & The Dragon, so it’s exciting that I’ve played an instrumental role in developing the brand,” he told us. “I get very involved in all areas of the Inn and hope that the love and passion that I have put into the place really shows.”
After supper, I retired to one of Bel & The Dragon’s recently refurbished bedrooms in The Cottage, which are all named after the paintings of the famous artist Sir Stanley Spence, whose gallery is situated across the road. I liked the little touch of complimentary Sipsmith Sloe Gin & scotch whisky – even though I was not tempted after all our delicious champagnes! The beds were extremely comfortable, perfect for viewing the HD flatscreen TV, and the towels were exquisitely white and fluffy. Although compact, the Farrow & Ball painted room was a welcome luxury after a full fine dining experience.
The following morning, the open log fires were a welcome sight on a very frosty morning. A hearty breakfast and my choice of Poached Duck Egg with Avocado Bacon Chutney & Hollandaise, and Organic & Free Range Scrambled Eggs with Cured Scottish Salmon and Chopped Chives were just too hard to resist.
Homely, with delicious food and comfortable accommodation, I will definitely be returning!
Bel & The Dragon is part of a collection of seven country inns situated cross the South of England, in Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire, offering exceptional food, fine wine and characterful bedrooms.
The Supper Club offers the opportunity to taste a Three-Course Menu with paired champagne, priced at £60 per person.
Bel & The Dragon is situated at High Street, Cookham, Berkshire SL6 9SQ.
Tel: +44 (0)1628 521263 or visit the website by clicking here.