Review: The Bel & The Dragon inn, Churt

The Bel & The Dragon is a gorgeous refurbished inn set in the middle of the Surrey countryside offering a warm welcome and hearty traditional fare

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Tucked away in the heart of the Surrey countryside, this restored 19th-century inn is bursting with character, from the friendly welcome from manager Mike on arrival to the 14 elegant guest rooms. Each one is named after a character from the novels of former Hampshire resident Jane Austen (naturally I was in Darcy) and filled with vintage-style pieces such as the faux dial-up telephone, the Roberts radio-wireless and as many paperbacks as I could ever read – all of which made my Kindle seem completely out of kilter.

Mod-cons did make themselves known in the form of hotel-wide wi-fi, flat-screen TV and room fan but I was more distracted by the sloe gin thoughtfully placed on the chest of drawers which served as a tasty apératif. The beds are super-king size ensuring probably the most comfortable night’s sleep imaginable, while my view looked out over the terrace and gardens where every Wednesday (weather permitting) guests and families can indulge in making their own pizza. Meanwhile en suite bathrooms are modern and elegant featuring under floor heating, (mine didn’t have a bath but family suites do, as well as a comfy sofa for putting your feet up and tearing into Pride and Prejudice).

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Downstairs the bar area is the perfect place to begin an evening with a cocktail – try the Elderbubble, a sweet tonic of Sipsmith vodka, elderflower and lemon juice topped with Laurent-Perrier Champagne. Dinner was in the spacious dining room with its parquet floor and wood panelling and was a feast: Greek pistachios and chilled pea and wild mint soup to begin, followed by the house speciality of roasted suckling pig with crispy crackling and spiced apple chutney. For dessert I had the divine Valrhona chocolate and honeycomb mousse, raspberries and popping candy, while a late-night Espresso Martini (Sipsmith vodka, Musetti espresso and Kahlua) was presented to perfection and the perfect nightcap.

The following morning, after finding the space for a bacon sandwich I explored the sights in and around the Bel & The Dragon. Over the road, the Sculpture Park with 600 pieces of art entices customers while the real treat is at the top of the Devil’s Jumps, the hills located a short walk from the inn, with sweeping vistas of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As the heavens opened I was thankful for the umbrella kindly lent to me by Mike at the Bel & The Dragon and after a good two hours of strolling among verdant woodland I was ready to sink into the cosy armchairs that line the hotel’s lobby and kick back with a coffee and the morning’s newspapers. Who needs a Kindle, indeed.

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For more information visit www.belandthedragon-churt.co.uk

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