Bel & The Dragon – Champagne Supper Club with Laurent-Perrier:
If you were to conjure up an image of the quintessential English country pub, you’d think of the Bel & The Dragon in Cookham. Whitewashed walls, black beams, low doorways, small cosy spaces and roaring fires. It’s truly picture perfect. It has the bonus of having accommodation and a fine gastro pub dining experience.
We were fortunate to be invited to a Champagne Supper Club with Laurent-Perrier. This involved firstly tasting 3 of their champagnes, and then a paired supper. This was as relaxed and un-stuffy as you could wish, even the local school PTA had turned up the event. We were guided through the tasting by Danny Borchert from Laurent-Perrier, who was happy to answer questions and encouraged people to say what they thought about the wines.
Whilst Danny guided us through the champagne we nibbled on some stunning olives and perfect whitebait served on sharing plates. The group Head Chef, Ronnie Kimbugwe, was present throughout chatting to the guests and treating us all like his friends. The kitchen is open to the dining area, where we could see the chefs hard at work creating the meal for the tasting event.
We started with the Ultra Brut (my favourite champagne of the evening). This is a totally natural champagne made without sugar. An original and pure style, I thought it was vibrant and bright, and could taste flowers and white fruit. The Ultra Brut champagne was paired with some of the finest tuna I have ever tasted; lightly seared and served with wafer thin slices of radish and beetroot, it was a delicate and elegant dish.
The informality of the evening continued with local free-range roast chicken for the table to share. The chicken was paired with the Laurent-Perrier Brut champagne, a 50% chardonnay blend which is a great match for chicken. Dry, with hints of citrus and a pale gold in colour, this was a lovely accompaniment to the main course.
Our dessert was paired with the Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose. We learnt that unlike most pink champagnes the salmon-pink colour comes from using the maceration (skin contact) technique as opposed to blending red and white wines. There’s also something rather special about the 16th-century style bottle. Both the aroma and the taste are precise and very crisp with a lasting impression of freshness, it has hints of soft red fruits, such as strawberries, redcurrants, raspberries and black cherries. It was no surprise that this was a perfect match for the creamy tart and the red fruits of the dessert.
After such a delicious meal it was a real treat to only have to wander upstairs to bed, with Alex having to be careful of the low ceilings! The next morning I wasn’t sure if I could face a breakfast, but somehow we managed a full English for Alex and a scrambled egg with smoked salmon for me. I often complain that the eggs are overcooked, but not in this case, they were perfect.
I really didn’t manage to finish mine! We had a wander through the village and the circled back to visit the Stanley Spencer gallery which opened at 11 a.m. This doesn’t open every day in winter, so if you are wanting to see a great collection of his works, I’d advise checking the website first.
Bel & the Dragon does have other special tastings and events, so do have a look at the website. It’s worth pointing out that the pub doesn’t have dedicated parking, but there is a free car park just behind the Stanley Spencer gallery, less than a 2 minutes walk.
T 01628 521263