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A warm welcome with a touch of traditional country pub class

By Shooting Gazette

Bel & The Dragon at The Swan, Kingsclere

A warm welcome with a touch of traditional country pub class, as Will Hetherington discovers.

Since you asked, the name is a biblical reference to a passage in the Old Testament Book of Daniel. It’s tenuous but it sticks in the mind and the business now includes seven pub/restaurants in the Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire area. Kingsclere is one of those remarkably unspoilt English country villages between Newbury and Basingstoke. Thankfully the busy A339 bypasses the village, leaving the charming centre quiet and blissfully untainted by the modern world rushing past its eastern perimeter. Although, immediately to the west of the village lies Watership Down, surely the most famous Down in British literary history. So the scene is set; it’s a beautiful village with impeccable provenance in the history of England, but what’s the pub like? Warm, welcoming, charming and really rather pleasant indeed. The rooms are all individually styled, retaining all the charm of the traditional inn while meeting the requirements of a modern hotel room. There is also a private residents sitting room on the first floor which is an impressive high ceilinged room with complementary whisky for a quick snifter before or after dinner. The only danger is you might not make it to your room if you linger too long in the comfortable chairs…

The staff here clearly enjoy the job and the bar is a very relaxing place to enjoy a chat with anyone else who happens to be passing through, whilst enjoying a pint or two of local ale or something a little stronger. And when it ame to the food we were not left wanting in terms of quality or quantity, and judging by the popularity of the very comfortable restaurant on a Monday night this place has obviously got a good reputation in the local area. With nine bedrooms, gun safes and a couple of separate dining options they are well set up for shoot parties and already host plenty during the season. I can’t imagine having anything other than a cracking shoot party in this place. The company mantra is: “Elegant and uniquely styled with a penchant for fine wine, great food and a warm welcome”. I’ll go with that.

Cost: From £115

belandthedragon-kingsclere.co.uk

Scores

Catering: We had mussels, duck egg with avocado (plus bacon chutney and Hollandaise), individual fish pie and halibut, plus a decent breakfast. 8/10

Accommodation: Individual rooms with plenty of style and charm. 8/10

Atmosphere: A traditional country pub which has been refurbished in an attractive village. 9/10

Service: Hard to fault. All of the staff at the hotel were friendly and knowledgeable, but not intrusive. We had a good night. 9/10

Suitability for shooters: Gun safes, separate dining areas for private parties, and the place really looks the part too. They are working on the dog friendliness too. 8/10

Total: 42/50

Reviewed 3rd April 2018

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