Bel & the Dragon are a small chain with seven restaurants around the south east of England. There are actually two others very close to me (Godalming and Churt) but the idea of a wintery wander around Windsor sounded pretty good to me, so off I went with a friend.
The building that is home to Bel & The Dragon in Windsor has been serving food and drink since the 11th Century and is really beautiful and cosy. It has low ceilings and is dimly lit, and has lots of wood panelling and mismatched wooden furniture which is a look I really love. It's located right in the centre of town; pretty much at the gates of Windsor Castle, just over the river from historic Eton College and only a few seconds walk from the train station and shops, so it's ideally located if you're exploring the area.
It's the only restaurant in the chain to serve afternoon tea, as a nod to it's quintessentially English heritage, and the afternoon tea menu is a combination of the classic (finger sandwiches, scones and cakes) and the slightly more modern (other British tea time delicacies, like Welsh Rarebit, Drunken Cheese and Eton Mess).
We arrived a little early and were taken through to the bar area. We ordered a couple of drinks from the extensive menu (the bar stocked some of my personal favourites, including Sipsmith gin and Laurent-Perrier Rosé) and waited for our table to become free.
Once we were seated, we had a good old read of the menu. The restaurant is open from brunch through til dinner and offers a really good selection of meals, all of which are made from locally sourced, fresh, quality ingredients.
I chose the traditional afternoon tea and my friend went for the Devonshire mussels in a Scrumpy Jack Cider and Bacon Broth from the A La Carte menu - and we couldn't resist giving the Drunken Cheese a go too.
First of all I have to comment on how beautifully presented the food was. The cheese was served on a wooden board, the mussels in a gorgeous enamel pot and, as expected, my afternoon tea came on a two tiered willow patterned cake plate which matched the other crockery in the restaurant. I'm a real sucker for food that looks as delicious as it tastes and presentation plays a key part in this. Bel & The Dragon did not disappoint.
The Drunken Cheese was on the Afternoon Tea menu and is so called as the Cashel blue cheese has been soaked in port for 48 hours. It is refrigerated in the process so as to stay firm and is served with oak cakes, celery and chutney. It was REALLY REALLY good and, as a self confessed cheese addict, was quite possibly the highlight of the meal for me....
.... As was the afternoon tea itself. It was a very traditional selection of cucumber, salmon and egg sandwiches, as well as lemon drizzle and carrot cakes, chocolate brownies (oh my!) and a warm scone, served with clotted cream and homemade jam. I pride myself on having a pretty big appetite and I'm afraid to say this almost got the better of me! Portions are incredibly generous, and I needed a bit of a breather (and an extra pot of tea!) half way through before I could polish it off. I'm glad I managed to though, as I was saving the best til last and the scone was AMAZING!
The mussels were incredible. They were HUGE! The cider and bacon broth really made the dish - and has made me want to go back again so that I can try some of the others I was eyeing up on the A La Carte menu.
The service was impeccable throughout our meal. The waiters were helpful and knowledgeable and always on hand, without being intrusive. The restaurant was happy and bustling (even at 3pm, which is often a quiet time in restaurants and bars) and its customers were a real mix of young and old, solo diners and big parties, and everyone seemed to have a really wonderful time - as did we!
Although I went without the girls, I wouldn't hesitate in taking them - in fact I plan to as I know Daisy in particular would love a girlie afternoon tea! There is a children's menu - which contains homemade and organic versions of the usual suspects (pasta, fish fingers, corn fed chicken etc) - but I would probably let them share the grown ups afternoon tea - they would absolutely love all the miniature sandwiches and cakes and I actually think one between them would fill both of their tummies perfectly. If you fancy a trip out to Windsor this week, it's worth noting that Bel & the Dragon are running a kids eat free promotion during half term (13th-21st February, before 7pm). Take a look at their website here for more information and other events and promotions coming up.
Bel & The Dragon, Windsor can be found on Thames Street (SL4 1QB). Our meal was complimentary but all words are entirely true and my own. Thank you so much for having us!