Do you ever find the weekend just isn’t quite long enough and that you could do with an extra day to fully appreciate it? With that in mind I accepted an invitation to go away one Sunday night with Laurent-Perrier champagne to Bel and The Dragon Kingsclere.
I love living in London, but there’s something amazing about breathing fresh country air, long walks when you’re all wrapped up… And toasting it all with a glass of my favourite champagne and some fabulous blogger friends.
Before you think that Andy had whisked me away, I was visiting the Bel and The Dragon with Angie, Suze and Laura, and the lovely Alexandra from Laurent-Perrier. I’m way too far ahead… To ring it all back, we hopped into a car and cracked open quarter bottles of Laurent-Perrier to get our day started.
Before we knew it we arrived at Bel and The Dragon, a boutique restaurant with rooms that felt like the ideal country retreat for our ladies night. With soft furnishings and muted tones, it was the perfect home from country home for our champagne fuelled evening.
Olives, crispy whitebait, sourdough toast with roasted garlic (hello all girls weekend away and no garlic guilt!)..
I love the slightly sweet notes in Laurent-Perrier champagne, and especially the fact that I associate it with happy reunions, anniversaries and celebrations with friends.
Since it was such a gorgeous early autumnal afternoon, we took our lunch and our champagne out into the outdoor terrace to soak up some sun. I loved the outdoor pizza oven – I have to say I bet the pizza here is perfectly thin and crisp!
Don’t even get me started on the potted crab and calamari and how good it was… I loved catching up with Angie, Suze and Laura and hearing all about their upcoming trips, as well as getting to know new faces in the late summer sun.
…especially when I was sat right beside the sourdough toast!
After lunch we checked into our rooms, and I took the chance to catch up with Andy briefly (and of course, Instagram!)
The Bel and The Dragon Kingsclere has 9 lovely en-suite bedrooms, kitted out with the cosiest beds, enough pillows for a pillow lover like me and a throw like the one at the King’s Head Cirencester that I wanted to take home!
I really enjoyed the warm feeling of the rooms, as well as the artwork that reminded you that you really were in the heart of the countryside.
Some of the best things about hotels are the little touches that they provide, and at The Bel and The Dragon Kingsclere that comes in the form of complimentary Sipsmith sloe gin in your room.
Ever a fan of a clean, simple bathroom I really liked the bathroom in my room. Some rooms come complete with a freestanding bath, too, but I enjoyed spending my longgggg shower time underneath the hot shower, and then wrapping myself in fluffy white towels before getting dressed.
Bramble toiletries made the whole experience even more enjoyable…
I’ve always had a secret longing for a Roberts radio, so couldn’t help but get excited when I realised my room came equipped with the most perfect blue Roberts radio! The ideal way to wake up, if you ask me (especially when you have to wake up early to get back in time for work!)
My little room looked onto the garden, meaning it was an ideal spot to look at the garden and to watch the sun stream in when you’ve woken up…
Personally, I was a huge fan of Mrs Duck in my bathroom!
After checking in and relaxing for a while, we headed to Kingsclere Parkhouse Stables, owned and run by Andrew Balding and his wife. Andrew also happens to be Sue Balding’s brother, giving the stables another claim to fame, apart from the many, many award winning horses that call this stable home.
Including some of these beautiful fellows here!
After a lovely walk around the stables, hearing all about the Queen’s visits to the stables to see some of her horses, and hearing about the history of the stables, we were kindly welcomed into the family home for tea and scones, to hear about the award winning horses (over 2,000 of them!) and the stables’ history since 1860s.
Now it’s not just Gourmet Getaways and award winning stables that Kingsclere is known for! If you’re still hanging onto your childhood like I am, then you’ll be very excited that Kingsclere is the home of Watership Down!
We took a walk along the downs hearing about the beautiful countryside – and hoping to find a few hiding hopping bunnies!
After working up a hunger (and a thirst!), we headed back to The Bel and The Dragon for some dinner, glasses of champagne and even more blog talk.
After getting ready for dinner, we headed down to the bar where a magnum of Laurent-Perrier was waiting for us – now that’s how to start dinner!
After hearing all about Angie’s trip to Africa, Suze’s trip to Venice and Laura’s trip to Amsterdam it was time to head through to the restaurant for dinner. With head chef Ronnie Kimbugwe, who has worked with Gordon Ramsey and at Claridges, joining us for dinner and each course paired with a different variety of Laurent-Perrier, it was a dinner I was very excited for.
I loved having Alexandra on hand all evening to guide us through the different champagnes. Starting with the ultra-brut, and hearing how it’s crisp flavour comes from the no-added sugar (meaning it’s low calorie too), was such a great way to start our meal.
Our first dish of the evening was Cornish crab served with avocado and beautiful edible flowers.
With a very important root to table, or in this case sea to table, concept, it was great to hear Ronnie tell us about all of his suppliers, and their own little histories.
After having a great laugh with Angie, as always, and discussing my upcoming trip to Thailand, the incredible main platters were brought out.
Perfectly tender, locally sourced venison, served with the crispiest roast potatoes, red cabbage and, of course, Cuvée-Rosé Laurent-Perrier Champagne to top it all off.
With garden grown vegetables, it was the perfect example of Ronnie and The Bel and The Dragon’s Root to Table concept.
I can’t even tell you how amazing the venison was… Perfectly tender meat, that is quite literally bursting full of flavour with every bite. I could eat this aaalllllll day every day!
To say that I’m full by this point is probably a slight understatement… But then, Ronnie announced that dessert was homemade tarte tatin, and then I kind of melted in my chair. I can’t, and I mean can’t, resist a perfect tarte tatin
I loved the presentation of this dish; so perfect and yet rustic all at the same time. The perfect example of our country retreat to The Bel and The Dragon with Laurent-Perrier.
Instead of a final glass of champagne, we were told we couldn’t leave without trying the signature Espresso Martinis at the hotel. Made with Lavazza coffee and Sipsmith vodka, these were some of the best espresso martinis I’ve ever had. And let me tell you, I’ve done my share of research…
Feeling a little sleepy, but not quite ready for bed, we retired to the lounge to enjoy our drinks and play a few board games before finally accepting it was time to sleep!
After a night away from London, I’m determined to make the most of all the great places that are so close to us. If you want to make the most of your Friday, or even Sunday evenings, you can book your Gourmet Getaway for £160 right here!
Bel & The Dragon
Our stay was complimentary, but all Laurent-Perrier love is my own – after all it is in my name…