Bel and the Dragon, Odiham
There’s always a slight moment of anticipation as you swipe your newly received key card and push open the door to your home for the night, ‘the hotel room’. It has the capacity to delight, or to disappoint within an instant and you so want it to be just how you’d imagined.
Bel and the Dragon, in the beautiful village of Odiham, ensures that your heart will take a little leap when you unlock your humble abode. There on the top will be a bottle of Sipsmith sloe gin, next to your coffee maker and a couple of crystal cut glasses. There’ll be fresh flowers next to your bed and in the bathroom they’ve plied you with huge white towels and stocked the shower with Bramley products.
Set in a Grade II listed former inn, Bel and the Dragon boasts features that date back as far as 1540. It’s retained an authentic feel about it, whilst still being regularly refreshed and updated with recent bedrooms designed by Odiham based interior designer Nicola Harding.
A dinner here may well be the highlight of your trip – although the nearby canal walks, the stunning local church and the warmest welcome you’ll enjoy anywhere are unlikely to disappoint either.
Opt for the duck salad (divine served with pomegranates and sesame) or the devilled crab to start. The produce is specially sourced and you get the feel that Bel and the Dragon as a group (they’re also located in Churt, Cookham, Godalming, Kingsclere, Reading and Windsor) really care about suppliers and quality. The wines are made in collaboration with Olivier Leflaive, who has worked with the hotels to produce their own white and red Burgundies. Try a bottle, or possibly 2 – neither of you needs to drive.
Mains in the restaurant range from Atlantic Lobster to Veal Bolognaise and the menus change monthly meaning that new additions are constantly appearing. You won’t need dessert but if you want the ultimate palate cleanser, you should absolutely go for the Sipsmith Vodka and Lemon zest sorbet.
The drive from London is easiest when you’re not at peak time, but slip away whenever the mood takes you – you can be home by morning and it’ll feel like months. Check in mid afternoon and bunker down with the piles of classic books and tumblers full of sloe gin, before emerging for a dinner fit for feasters around 8pm.
Start with drinks in the bar fireside, or when Spring springs you can sit outside with a bottle of Rose and make like you’re miles from England. Enjoy a long, languid meal with all three courses and copious amounts of wine.
Sleep deep and lie in, but set your alarm so as not to miss breakfast. Linger over the papers next to a wood burning stove and tear yourself away when you really must.
Weekend nights are rammed with locals, but rest assured they’re well heeled and well mannered. Phew.