Bel & The Dragon Kingsclere – inews

“Are you here for the races?” A friendly face beams over from the next table as I look up blankly from my dinner. The races? “Oh, sorry, just heard the Irish accent and thought you’d been at Newbury for the day,” my neighbour explains. “How’s the steak?” It was bound to happen. I had always longed for a weekend away in a cosy English pub – the type with a roaring fire, wellies by the door and a couple of black Labradors snuffling around people’s ankles. And now I’ve finally snaffled my ideal country escape, I’m surrounded by Irish people. Cute as a bunny Bel & the Dragon in Hampshire’s Kingsclere village has all the perfect pub ingredients with a hipsterish edge – the roaring fire is present, the rooms are just the right side of twee, but the waiting staff wear Converse, the rooms are well stocked with complimentary Sipsmith sloe gin, and the place has a polished air – less shabby,

I had always longed for a weekend away in a cosy English pub – the type with a roaring fire, wellies by the door and a couple of black Labradors snuffling around people’s ankles. And now I’ve finally snaffled my ideal country escape, I’m surrounded by Irish people. Cute as a bunny Bel & the Dragon in Hampshire’s Kingsclere village has all the perfect pub ingredients with a hipsterish edge – the roaring fire is present, the rooms are just the right side of twee, but the waiting staff wear Converse, the rooms are well stocked with complimentary Sipsmith sloe gin, and the place has a polished air – less shabby, more chic. Kingsclere, a pretty little village with a couple of dinky shops and views for miles, is in Watership Down country and, it seems, is

Kingsclere, a pretty little village with a couple of dinky shops and views for miles, is in Watership Down country and, it seems, is home of all things horseracing, too. Later, in the bar, a retired jockey (yes, he is Irish) talks me through the surrounding areas – several superstar horses have been ridden out across the Gallops, around which I’d not so gracefully trotted earlier in the day.

Chasing wabbits I was there for the bunnies, not the horsies, and had donned my walking boots for a ramble around the area. I didn’t see anything cotton-tailed, but there were quite a few inquisitive sheep and pigs that seemed bemused by my presence. A couple of dog walkers were equally bemused when I stopped to ask directions after I’d lost my way and found myself traipsing through a field of barley. I blamed the scant signage, but perhaps my natural lack of any sense of direction played a part.

Somehow, I made it back to the village as night fell – a pub never looked more welcoming. Burrowing down It’s tempting to never leave your room at Bel & The Dragon – the sloe gin makes for a perfect post-walk warmer, as does the heated bathroom floor as you pad towards a long, hot shower. But what a shame it would be to take refuge in the rooms, especially when dinner beckons. Bed and bath at Bel & the Dragon, Kigsclere The wine list is impressive, and even includes the pub’s own red and white Burgundies.

On the menu are seared Scottish scallops with pancetta and cauliflower to start, followed by the biggest rib of beef for two I’ve ever seen. The waitress gently persuades us to go for this hunk of meat, garnished beautifully with vine tomatoes, roast garlic and violet artichokes. No wonder our neighbours crane to get a glimpse. We protest that it’s far too much food, but doggy bags are provided with a grin when we finally admit defeat.

Hare of the dog? And so to the bar, to spend an evening catching up with my compatriots. You know you’re not in a city when you’re invited to pull up a chair with the locals, and everyone from the waiting staff to the patrons are happy to share their life story, and are unashamed about wanting to know yours. Such is the merriment that I only get to stick my head into the upstairs study, where one can relax with a quiet nightcap (whiskey awaits on the table, as do tea and coffee facilities). By this time, though, I’m fit only for my comfortable bed – quite possibly the best part of the cosy pub experience.  Rooms from £115.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/essentials/lifestyle/travel/bel-dragon-kingsclere-cosy-burrow-watership-country/

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