Friday, 8 August 2008

Bel and The Dragon

After my rather stressful evening in the kitchen on Wednesday, Guy suggested I might like to go out to dinner last night. I have to admit I was relieved as my ego is still a tad bruised by what I saw as a huge failure. Guy does not see it that way at all, and in fact has asked me to make the recipe again, but to bake the sausages first to see if it makes a difference to the appearance of the dish, as he liked the flavours so much. Watch this space.

We really have not eaten out much in Reading yet, only visiting a few of the restaurants on the Canal by the Oracle. I've heard so much about other restaurants in Reading I decided to do some research. Many years ago I subscribed to toptable, the online restaurant booking website, but I was always nervous about using it. I need not have been. I was able to research many of Reading's restaurants and book the one I wanted very easily. If you want to give it a try, just click here.

I have to admit, part of the reason I chose Bel and the Dragon was for its fabulous name! Located on Gasworks Road on to the river, Bel and the Dragon is in a wonderful setting. You can even eat outside when the weather is fine, but last night, it wasn't, and anyway, it looked really warm and welcoming inside. We were greeted very enthusiastically and made to feel welcome straight away. The host had saved a booth for us as well, and we were made very comfortable.

Warmly decorated in shades of red and green, complimented by dark wood, the restaurant is very cosy, despite being quite large. Charming drawings hang on the walls and our booth had beautiful throw cushions on the seats.

We decided to start with bread and olives. These were beautifully were presented. Several pieces of warm home-made breads (sun dried tomato, olive and cheese) surrounded a half a roasted head of garlic. The garlic was sweet and gorgeous spread on the delicious breads. The olives were nice too and I had them all to myself as olives are the one thing Guy absolutely loathes.

I was very impressed by the wine list, which had wines at all price points, listed in price order. Guy asked me to choose what I wanted and I fancied a Sauvignon Blanc. Interestingly, their Sauvignon Blanc was French, and was actually the cheapest wine on the list at just over £13, but it was a wonderful wine. It tasted nicer than many other Sauvignon Blancs I have ordered in other restaurants and paid a lot more for!

For main course, Guy had wild boar on a bed of savoy cabbage. I hesitated to accept when he offered me some, having never tasted wild boar and not being a great fan of game. To my amazement it was beautiful, curiously tasting more of beef, rather than of pork as I thought it would. I ordered roast cod on a bed of crushed peas with lemon and mint garnished with crispy Parma ham. It was lovely to look at as well as to eat, the whiteness of the cod set off by the gorgeous green of the peas. The delicious roast cod was complemented by the salty crispness of the fried Parma ham and the crushed peas were just wonderful.

Both our dinners came with "chef's choice of potato", which last night was roast new potatoes. These were brought to our table in a hot cast iron skillet and were simply delicious. I ordered a side salad and Guy ordered spinach, both of which were very good.

We really were replete at this point, but the desserts sounded so good we were not strong willed enough to dismiss them completely and so decided to share a lemon cheesecake. It was served with a fruit compote which perfectly complemented the sharpness of the lemon and was one of the nicest cheesecakes I have ever eaten.

We were both incredibly impressed with Bel and the Dragon and are planning a return visit very soon. The atmosphere is wonderful, the staff friendly and efficient, and the food is just wonderful. It was a brilliant evening.

(Our meal cost about £65 in total, including wine and sparkling water.)

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