When I arrived at The Bel & The Dragon at the George in Odiham, I was tired, stressed after a week of deadlines and desperately in need of a country escape. Our stay at this delightful inn really couldn’t have come at a better time. I returned home, thoroughly relaxed and ready to face whatever was coming my way.
Although I love travelling around the world, sometimes all I need is a little TLC and beautiful room to call my own for a few days in the British countryside.
If like me you need a break from your stressful and hectic London life and are looking for a place to stay for a short while, look no further than the Bel and The Dragon in Odiham.
Packing up and heading to this cozy country inn feels like a true escape from your city life. Countryside all around and a cozy crackling fire in the hotel’s lounge. Seriously, what more do you need?
THE BEL & THE DRAGON: A CHAIN OF HOTELS WITH A DIFFERENCE
If you have ever stayed at the Bel & The Dragon in Odiham, you wouldn’t believe that it is part of a small chain of upmarket country inns scattered across the South East of England and owned by the philanthropist heir to the Cadbury chocolate empire, Joel Cadbury.
One core principal unites all seven Bel & The Dragon country inns. All of them relish country living and combine stylish decor with a warm and inviting atmosphere to create a relaxing weekend getaway in a cosy and classic surrounding for you and your loved one.
Add an amazing restaurant and the great service provided by the inn’s very attentive staff – and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a perfect staycation.
Each venue however is somewhat unique. The Bel & The Dragon at The George in Odiham, for instance, is a Grade II listed pub with features dating as far back as 1540. It was also the birthplace of the Odiham Agricultural Society, and thus the Royal Veterinary Society and the veterinary profession in Britain in general.
LOCATION OF THE BEL & THE DRAGON IN ODIHAM
The Bel & Dragon at the George is located deep in the district of Hampshire, but a mere hour and a half drive from London’s city centre. Odiham is a quaint historic village that played an important role in the sealing of the Magna Carta. The village is set in a picturesque pastoral setting that shows off the best of our countryside. The beauty of the natural landscape that surrounds Odiham should keep you occupied for a while, especially if you are partial to country walks. In the summer, the nearby beer gardens and country paths are filled with people and remind you why you simply have to embrace the British countryside. If however you prefer a more rural setting for your activities, fear not, Guildford and Winchester are only a short drive away. Do plan to spend a couple of hours in the village and its immediate surroundings. A large part of the original 16th century village has been retained. So go for a stroll! Odiham also features an array of independent shops and coffee houses. The hotel itself is a ten minute walk down to the beautiful canal and the Galleon Marine boatyard. Here you can hire a rowing boat from the independently run yard. Alternatively if you are ready to splash the cash and prefer a less strenuous trip you can hire out a narrow boat and cruise down the canals all the way to the River Thames – with a glass of fizz in tow.
STYLE OF THE BEL & THE DRAGON IN ODIHAM
The Bel & The Dragon in Odiham retains most of its originally features from as far back as 1540 and encompasses classic chic décor with a traditional English pub demeanor. It certainly lives up to the chains homely promise.
As you enter between the whitewashed pillars with St George’s Crosses flying proudly either side, you are greeted by a quirky entrance hall with original stone flooring and an original reception-come-maître-d’-station hidden within a wooden cubbyhole in the wall, where we were very warmly welcomed by our host Michelle.
On the left you will find the lively Cromwells Bar, the resident’s lounge is located to your right and if you continue straight ahead you will find yourself in the restaurant, before you step onto the outdoor terrace.
The country’s inn distinctive cosy and classic look was created by designer Nicola Harding (also born in Odiham) and incorporates soothing earthy and natural shades, tartan rugs, comfortable armchairs and an open 16th Century fire.
The dining room and bar are cosy, and mismatched. With wooden floors, cosy nooks, plenty of bookshelves, a wooden beamed ceiling in the bar and an airy open plan layout in the dining room. Rustic charm at its best!
The private resident’s sitting room is intended for the exclusive use of overnight guests. With comfy sofas, gardening books, old-fashioned board games such as chess and monopoly and a cards table, the room is perfect to recline in and finish your evening.
Gary and I felt right at home as we settled down in the lounge with a tumbler of Baileys before retiring to our beds. The only danger is that you might not make it to your room if you linger a little too long in those comfortable chairs….
ATMOSPHERE OF THE BEL & THE DRAGON IN ODIHAM
The Bel and The Dragon in Odiham is a popular haunt with the locals, as well as a favourite for those from a little further away. Indeed this country inn is always bustling with people.
But what sets this place apart is the manner with which you are treated. Whether you’re staying here or just popping in for a meal, you will be showered with special care and attention.
For starters, there’s that large drawing room for residents only. It would have been so easy for the chain to turn this space into another bedroom or bar. But they resisted. Good on them!
There are little treats for you all around the inn. In addition to the sloe gin in your room, you will find a tray with good quality whiskeys on the stair, from which you are welcome to serve yourself.
Furthermore the staff here clearly enjoy their job and will happily chat to you or answer any of your questions.
In fact, they were so chatty that I first assumed they simply knew all the locals. You know… The way pub owners do in a quaint little village such as Odiham.
But the owners were quick to pick up a conversation with us and I must say, I was very grateful for all their advice and tips on nearby walking trails.
I thus swiftly realised that the owners and staff were just plain friendly and welcoming to anyone who came through their door.
ROOMS AT THE BEL & THE DRAGON IN ODIHAM
The Bel and the Dragon at the George in Odiham features fifteen beautifully appointed bedrooms, timelessly styled in the Bel & The Dragon’s distinctive cosy-classic manner. There are bedrooms within the main hotel itself as well as newer rooms in the Stable and Coach House outside.
Each room is bespoke in its name and layout, with individual quirks and eccentricities like feature archways, beautiful painted chimney breasts and hidden nooks with children’s wooden bunk-beds. The original features, wooden beams accompanied with high ceilings and mismatched furniture add to the whole country-inn experience.
Our premium double en-suite room, the Damson, was incredibly spacious with an impressive large chimney painted with a fascinating fresco from the 1500s.
The furnishings in the room are largely restored and reclaimed last century, and are chic without being shabby.
The piece de resistance however is the gigantic and very comfortable bed. The king-sized creation with its crisp white linen and mountain of squishy feather-pillows has a visual appeal that you simply won’t be able to resist. It was also one of the most comfortable beds I have ever had the honour of resting in.
Each room has an en-suite bathroom complete with power shower and crystal clean bathtub. You will notice in the pictures that the free-standing bathtub is an object of beauty in itself. The bathroom is decorated with old-fashioned white tiling and vintage ceramic jars. There is also underfloor heating and lots of Bramley products at your disposition. Our room even had a separate toilet room. Perfect if you want to enjoy a long peaceful soak in the bathtub.
It is the small touches however that make your stay at the Bel and the Dragon extra special.
Each room is stocked with a bottle of either Sloe Gin or whisky for you to enjoy at your leisure (and own measure!). I am normally not usually a huge fan of gin, but this Sloe Gin was delicious and ran down my throat and into my belly just a little too easily.
The rooms are also equipped with a cosy blanket for both of you to snuggle into and feature the contents of a literature lover’s library delightfully scattered in randomly placed piles around the room.
If you have an eye for detail and want more than the bland offerings from your typical hotel chain, The Bel & The Dragon is a great choice.
Our up-market room would cost you £135 for the night on a bed and breakfast board.
A welcome refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.
FOOD AND DRINK AT THE BEL & THE DRAGON IN ODIHAM
We were lucky enough to be invited for dinner and breakfast, as well as a restful night’s sleep at the Bel and The Dragon in Odiham.
The food at this country inn certainly is a big draw. The dining room is unpretentious but attractive, with wildflowers in jam jars on the black board tables. The service is warm and enthusiastic.
Ronnie Kimbugwe, former prodigy of Gordon Ramsay and group head chef at the Bel & The Dragon in Odiham, has prepared a menu that varies on a monthly basis and that focuses on the freshest, seasonal and thus sustainable produce available locally.
The kitchen dishes up solid but subtly innovative British food that would easily win MasterChef. The menu offers a mix of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes with whitebait, flat iron steak, ludicrously naughty macaroni cheese and thyme and duck fat roast potatoes to name but a few dishes. Not to mention an outstanding dessert menu – gooey chocolate fondant and salted caramel ice cream, anyone?
There is also a superb wine list, with a remarkably modest mark-up.
DINNER AT THE BEL & THE DRAGON IN ODIHAM
Arriving downstairs on a Saturday night, the Inn was beginning to fill up with locals which gave the place a real welcoming village feel.
An extensive cocktail menu meant that choosing our drinks for the evening was quite a difficult decision. Gary chose the light and bubbly Elderflower Champagne, whilst as a women, partial to the odd glass of wine, I opted for one of their roses. We greeted our drinks with a sigh of relief, leaving the stresses of everyday life behind. The weekend had finally begun.
Gary skipped his starter, but I just couldn’t resist the Seared Scottish Scallops and Crispy Pancetta served with pea puree and pancetta. The dish was divine and platted up so beautifully. For me, it was the stand-out dish of the evening.
For our main course, I continued the seafood theme and opted for the fish of the day. A monkfish served with peas, turnips, mint, mangetout and watercress.
Gary loves his meat and there was a lot to choose from in this category. In the end he decided to order the Roasted Suckling Pig served with Crispy Crackling, Spiced Apple Chutney.
Polishing our meal off with a Valrhona Chocolate and Honeycomb Mousse and a Caramelized Lemon Tart, we then retreated to the drawing room with a glass of baileys, as one does when in a country inn.
BREAKFAST AT THE BEL & THE DRAGON IN ODIHAM
At the Bel and The Dragon you will start your morning with a hearty breakfast complimented by an extensive selection of teas and coffees. On the counter you will find a small yet fulfilling choice of breads, cereals, yoghurts and juices. The cooked breakfast menu features all the classics, but with a modern twist.
When breakfast dawned, I was still rather full from my indulgent night before, so I ordered a “simple” Poached Duck Egg served with Avocado Bacon Chutney & Hollandaise rather than the Full English. In fact, poached eggs are one of my favourite breakfast options and I was glad to find it on the menu.
The dish was served with a tomato bacon salsa that added a lovely sweetness, as well as a frothy béchamel sauce. The egg itself was perfectly oozy, its yolk bold orange in colour. A pleasant reminder of The Bel and The Dragons close proximity to the countryside’s close and the organic produce used by this country inn.
Gary has always had a sweet tooth and thus opted for the Blueberry Pancakes with Crispy Bacon, Clotted Cream and Caramelized Banana. The pancakes were wonderfully soft and not overly sweet. The bacon was crisp and its saltiness stood out in contrast to the bananas.
The presentation of this dish came only seconds to its taste. And I almost felt a little jealous. No wonder our waitress approved of Gary’s choice. Definitely one of the best dishes on the breakfast menu.
This warm and welcoming inn has everything that you want from a romantic weekend away. Its staff and homely feel make your stay with someone special just that.
If you want to take some time out from that hectic lifestyle then this place is perfect for the weekend. You can spend hours enjoying each other’s company in the romantic lounge areas and, of course, the bedroom or head out into the countryside beyond.
The Bel & The Dragon is open to diners, drinkers and potential stopovers.
The Bel and The Dragon is just over an hour from central London by car .
Trains from Waterloo to Farnham take 55 minutes and cost £30.50 for an off-peak return.
A taxi from Farnham to Bel and The Dragon costs around £15.
Room prices start from: £115 per night
Email: [email protected]
Contact Tel: 01256 702696