Food Review - The George & Dragon, Great Budworth, Northwich
- Credit: Archant
Ray King visits the George and Dragon in the pretty village of Great Budworth and finds a pub at the heart of local life, also tempting diners from farther afield
Does size matter? Obviously not in the case of the picture postcard Domesday Book Cheshire village of Great Budworth; population at the 2001 Census just 373.
Presumably the prefix ‘great’ was applied when it was deemed to be one of the largest parishes in Cheshire, containing 19 hamlets. However it’s clear what puts the ‘great’ in Great Budworth today - its astonishing collection of no less than 59 listed structures, including the part-14th Century church of St Mary and All Saints, designated Grade 1 by English Heritage, and most of the buildings around it. Their survival is no accident; towards the end of the 19th Century, Rowland Egerton-Warburton, owner of Arley Hall in whose estate the village was at the time located, set about restoring its centre to render it picturesque in Victorian eyes. More than 100 years later one is bound to agree with our forebears.
Opposite the church and listed Grade II is the village pub, the George and Dragon, dating in part to 1722 but redesigned in 1880 to Warburton’s specification. His Victorian paternalism is evident in the verse he had carved above the inner door: ‘As Saint George in armed array doth the fiery dragon slay; so mayst thou with might no less, slay that dragon drunkenness.’
Before we crossed the threshold of this charming inn and restaurant - styled Cheshire’s ‘hidden gem’ and painstakingly restored again four years ago - the owners’ care and attention to detail was evident. Even though it was going dark and the rain was falling, all the outside tables were set with plantings of spring flowers, looking an absolute picture. Inside this immaculately kept, quintessentially traditional English pub, it seemed like every ancient beam exuded terrific warmth. We walked through the unspoilt, rustic bar into a dining area where polished wooden tables and brassware reflected a golden sheen and glasses shimmered in the candlelight.
The menu too reflects tradition, with starters such as Atlantic prawn cocktail, oak-smoked Scottish salmon and garlic mushrooms, while mains include fish and chips, honey roast ham, egg and chips and steak, ale and mushroom short crust pie. Yet, perhaps a little surprisingly (unless this is homage to Somerset Maugham’s travels in the old empire), there are also several exotic interlopers from the orient, and it was along this route we both decided to travel for our main courses.
I began with pan-seared native king scallops (£8.95), plump, fleshy and flavourful, served with a coarse cauliflower purée and a smoother purée of garden peas and finished with classic beurre blanc, arranged prettily on a white oval platter. Mrs K selected from the list of specials, an Anglesey crab cocktail with saffron and lemon mayonnaise and served with wholemeal bread and butter (£7.95), generous in both proportion and in its delicious flavours of the sea.
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For my main course it was my turn to order from the specials menu: pan-fried duck breast with hoi-sin sauce and stir-fried vegetables (£14.95). The duck came pink, as ordered, and sliced with a slightly over-generous dollop of hoi-sin, but the julienne of vegetables correctly retained some crunch and the accompanying chips, served in a beaker, were very good too. My wife’s choice of Singapore-style king prawns (£14.95) proved excellent, with a good portion of tip-top shellfish stir-fried with garlic, sweet chilli and oyster sauce, finely sliced shallots and peppers and served with perfectly timed coconut-infused basmati rice.
The dessert menu yielded a lovely wedge of raspberry Bakewell tart with cream (£4.95) which we both tucked into...well, mostly herself. We drank a bottle of the house Australian chardonnay, fresh, peachy and enjoyable for £17.95 and I accompanied the duck with a large glass of the fine house Rioja (£5.95). Service was slick and friendly throughout and the marvellous surroundings lent a great sense of occasion.
The George & Dragon, High Street, Great Budworth, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 6HF. Tel: 01606 892650; www.georgeanddragonatgreatbudworth.co.uk