George & Dragon, Felton

The George & Dragon has an interesting history; in medieval times it was originally built as a cross passage house but has been an inn since the 16th century. As a coaching inn it also collected tolls from travellers going to the south (it appears even centuries ago motorists were penalised) and you can still see the stone archway leading from the bar where they were collected. Grade II Listed with quite a few additions and alterations made in the following centuries, the present landlord has also carried out some sensitive refurbishments adding charm and comfort.

We took a table in the dining room with its wide stone fireplace and secretly hoped at some point we would hear the ghostly clatter of hooves flying past in the passage outside. The dinner menu is a great idea : a sort of build your own dinner for a set price, first choosing a main course from the list, then two side dishes, and lastly a sauce. There’s also a ‘specials’ menu and a range of starters.

To start, I ordered goat’s cheese with toasted walnuts and balsamic glaze and my husband the smooth salmon pâté. I did like the idea of building my own dinner in the shape of pork tenderloin fillet with dauphinois potatoes, blanched broccoli stems, garden peas and rosemary and redcurrant gravy but at that moment the chef himself appeared and steered us towards the slow cooked lamb shank and fish and chips both from the ‘specials’ menu. Never ones to ignore a tip straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak, we ordered the lamb shank with creamy mash, garden peas, mint and rosemary gravy, and cider battered haddock, hand cut triple fried chips, garden peas and tartare sauce.

We loved our starters, especially the salmon pâté and they were beautifully presented with the freshest of crisp mixed salad as an accompaniment. We had time to chat a while before our main courses arrived looking magnificent and promising to taste just as good as they looked. My slow cooked lamb shank was lovely, meltingly tender lamb falling away from the bone, amid the creamiest of mashed potato, topped off with a good splash of mint and rosemary gravy from the jug served on the side. The cider battered haddock was delicious, cooked to a flaky white perfection inside its batter coating and my husband made a proper pig of himself with the triple fried chips – but hey, what’s the point of going out otherwise?

We had a lovely evening; the atmosphere is warm and welcoming (so no chance of any ghostly hooves being heard) and although we didn’t order the bespoke dinner, we thought it was a very good idea and will try it another time.

Jacquie Vowles