Bel & The Dragon, Godalming GU7 1HY – restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 09:30 30 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:47 30 March 2015
Brunch in the upper gallery of a converted congressional church? Accompanied by a gospel choir? Intrigued, Matthew Williams paid a visit to Godalming’s Bel & The Dragon restaurant
Restaurant reviewed: Bel & The Dragon, Old Church, Bridge Street, Godalming GU7 1HY. Tel: 01483 527333
What we ate:
Golden bubble and squeak with organic fried eggs and crispy streaky bacon, £9
Poached duck egg and avocado with bacon chutney and hollandaise, £8
Rib-eye of beef, Yorkshire pudding and fresh horseradish with thyme roasted potatoes, lots of green vegetables and braising jus, £19
Maple glazed confit leg of duck and savoy cabbage, £18
Crunchy broccoli and chopped chilli, £4
Warm gooey gluten free chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream and passion fruit glaze, £6
White chocolate panna cotta with crushed honeycomb, raspberries and pistachio, £6
House red (a Syrah Grenache blend from the Languedoc) served in a magnum - charged by the glass at £3.80 for 125ml.
REVIEW: Over the years, I’ve been very lucky with my restaurant experiences in Godalming, with both Fleurie and La Luna (French and Italian, respectively) shining brightly on previous visits. Then, there’s any number of excellent countryside pubs in the area that I could recommend off the top of my head, too.
One place that had always been on my list to visit but had somehow slipped through the net until now, however, was the converted congressional church many will have also driven past umpteen times; its impressive stained glass window to front, offering a quirky welcome to the town.
Having already visited - and been impressed by - the Bel & The Dragon hotel in Churt, the management at the group’s Godalming bar and restaurant (which is found inside said church) finally forced my hand with a curveball entertainment choice: to make full use of the building’s striking architecture, they’ve invited the local gospel choir to fill the Sunday atmosphere. The results are majestic.
As voices lift the rafters, guests wine and dine in surprisingly intimate surrounds given the cavernous proportions of the dining room – the interior designer has certainly earned their money. The kitchen cooks up a new sermon on full view, apparently next to where the altar once stood. We were led to a table on the gallery floor, for a bird’s eye view of it all.
Still, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a ‘gospel brunch’: soul food? Not quite, but it’s a tempting menu that promises a few surprises along the way. No more so than the house wine being served by the magnum, when you’re only hoping for a glass (guests are only charged for what they actually drink, though!).
Perhaps overwhelmed by the occasion, I unusually opted for the bubble and squeak to start. Served with eggs and bacon, it would have made a fine brunch in its own right, let alone a starter. I’d order it again tomorrow.
Sylviane went for the far more subtle but equally moreish poached duck egg and avocado, with bacon chutney and hollandaise.
As the choir continued to harmonise on the balcony opposite (and members of the ‘audience’ were swept up by the occasion and started to add a rhythm section) we moved onto our mains, with beautifully cooked rib-eye of beef for me (served with a mouth-watering jus) and a succulent leg of duck for Sylviane; both spiked with a side of crunchy broccoli and chopped chilli. The latter will definitely be added to the Williams family’s Sunday roast from now on.
Dessert arrived to the last notes of a mesmeric gospel chant, with warm gooey chocolate fondant and a deconstructed white chocolate panna cotta only serving to lift our spirits higher.
Music and food are two of my passions in life, and enjoying both with my wife and daughter was euphoric enough to leave me eulogising. A bar in a church? Gospel music on a Sunday? Gimmicks, perhaps, but they only heighten what’s already a very decent service at Godalming’s Bel & The Dragon.
• Bel & The Dragon’s next brunches featuring Godalming’s community gospel choir will take place on Sunday April 26, Sunday May 31 and Sunday June 28.
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