Bel & the Dragon Reading Pub with rooms in Reading, Berkshire

Prices from:
£85 per night

David Hancock says:

  • Converted canal-side factory
  • Cool urban bolthole
  • Trendy bar; focus on cocktails
  • Country-chic rooms; a real surprise
  • Eclectic, modern European menu
  • Cracking waterside terrace

Sticky FingersCandlelitClose to Water90 Minutes from LondonNo Car Needed15 Minutes from the MotorwayPrivate Dining

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Real Time Booking Available
Overview

Bel & the Dragon Reading Reading, Berkshire, RG4 6UP

The personal touch

In a surprisingly peaceful canal-side setting just off Reading’s ring road and away from the hubbub of town-centre bars, this stylish pub-restaurant with rooms is housed within a beautifully converted former biscuit factory. The refurbishment is fabulous and original features have been retained in the lofty ceilinged dining area – note the arched windows, the winches, and the old Forman’s office in the upstairs dining area – and it’s a relaxing and very comfortable place to tuck into some great modern European food. Wooden floors, heritage colours, a mix of intimate booth seating, replete with table lamps and classic books on shelves, cushioned wall benches and painted chairs around scrubbed wooden tables set the informal scene. The vibrant bar next door has high-backed settles, industrial-style hanging lights, and leather tub chairs by the open log fire, and draws a good crowd thanks to the excellent list of cocktails and the prospect of sipping them alfresco beside the canal. For a wedding celebration with family and friends you can book the Majestic Bel (seats 60), a refurbished canal barge moored alongside the pub. Why not book one of the Cocktail Masterclasses (£18 per person) and do visit the interesting small Riverside Musuem (10am-6pm April-September) at the end of the terrace.

Sticky fingers

Children are allowed in the bar and dining area; smaller portions are served and younger children have their own menu (freshly cooked food), with quizzes & colouring to keep them amused. Rooms are more suited and geared to adults.

Muddy paws

Dogs are allowed in the bar (biscuits & water bowls) but not overnight in the rooms.

Alfresco

On sunny days sup your pint of Pride on the stunning riverside terrace, a surprisingly peaceful spot for alfresco imbibing in the heart of Reading. There are planters filled with fragrant herbs, café-style tables and chairs and fire pits to huddle around on cooler evenings.

 

What’s the Damage?

5 rooms; 4 doubles (1 premium) £95-£125; 1 single £85

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Private dining (two areas: seat 10 & 20 & Majestic Bel boat)
  • Disabled access to bar & dining area
  • Parking: car park & roadside spaces

 

Sleep

Bel & the Dragon Reading Reading, Berkshire, RG4 6UP

Do not disturb

Added in late 2017 the five upstairs rooms have proved a huge success, offering a stylish (and cheaper) alternative to several nearby hotels in the town. Décor is smart country-chic style and comes as a real surprise for a pub with rooms in an urban setting, as do the welcome extras, so expect home-from-home comforts with king-size beds topped with White Company linen and colourful tartan throws, soothing pastel hues, bright fabrics, old pine furnishings, classic books on shelves, retro radiators and phones, Roberts radios, and Smart TVs. Fresh, tiled bathrooms have walk-in rain showers and Bramley Bathroom Products. A nice touch is the complimentary bottle of Sipsmith Sloe Gin for a pre-dinner tipple. You’ll also find tea, fresh milk and a Nespresso machine on the landing, and not to forget the decanter of malt whisky – do help yourself to a (free) nightcap. The premium double offers more space and the single is compact to say the least, plus three rooms (2 doubles & the single room) have fixed windows due to the close proximity of the kitchen extractor fans outside. These rooms have efficient Dyson air-conditioning fans provided. Plans are to improve the access stairway to the rooms and to add more rooms – watch this space…!

 

What’s the Damage?

5 rooms; 4 doubles (1 premium) £95-£125; 1 single £85

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Private dining (two areas: seat 10 & 20 & Majestic Bel boat)
  • Disabled access to bar & dining area
  • Parking: car park & roadside spaces

 

Eat & Drink

Bel & the Dragon Reading Reading, Berkshire, RG4 6UP

Mastering the menu

(Starters: £5-£11; Main Courses: £9-£26; Desserts £7; bar & lunch menu £4-£10)

Group head chef Ronnie Kimbugwe (ex-Gordon Ramsay) and the head chefs across the group deliver an eclectic choice of modern European dishes on good monthly-changing menus and there’s something for all tastes and appetites. Built around quality local and sustainable ingredients the choice includes pub classics (rib-eye burger or posh fish and chips) and delicious meats dishes from the rotisserie (suckling pig, crispy crackling and spiced apple chutney) and the Josper grill (half lobster, garlic butter and zucchini fries). Typically, start with potted mackerel, cranberry jelly and rye, follow with English veal Bolognese, sun-dried tomatoes and pappardelle, and finish with caramelised passion fruit tart with mascarpone ice cream. The short bar and lunch menu may offer rocket and parmesan risotto and devilled crab and shaved fennel salad. The bar showcases local Berkshire Brewery Good Old Boy and Fuller’s London Pride, craft beers and a decent list of classic cocktails and boutique British gins, but do delve into the excellent wine list, which includes some fabulous iconic wines by the glass, thanks to the revolutionary Corovin system.

Time to eat

Breakfast: 8am – 10.30am

Lunch: 12 noon – 3pm (Saturday brunch 10am – 3pm; Sunday 12 noon – 9pm)

Dinner: 6pm – 10pm

Time at the bar

9am – 11.30pm (10.30pm Saturday & Sunday)

What’s the Damage?

5 rooms; 4 doubles (1 premium) £95-£125; 1 single £85

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Private dining (two areas: seat 10 & 20 & Majestic Bel boat)
  • Disabled access to bar & dining area
  • Parking: car park & roadside spaces

 

Food Trail

Take it back home
Tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef, and seek out the roadside stalls selling the local crab and samphire on the inn’s menu, the Food Trail features the local artisan producers and suppliers where you can buy to enjoy at home.

Change of scenery
Looking for a pub for lunch following a country walk, a different venue for dinner, or a good café for coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea, then the best in the area are listed below. If you find a new and exciting eatery in the area that’s worthy of a mention on the Food Trail, then please to do let us know – gabrielle@innplaces.co.uk.

1 Inn Location - Bel & the Dragon Reading

2

Laverstoke Park Farm Shop, Overton RG25 3DR

Certified as organic and biodynamic, this multi award-winning farm is owned by former Formula 1 champion Jody Schecktar. With its own on-site butchers, the farm shop provides an outlet for its products, including organic meats, seasonal fruit and veg grown in the walled garden, prize-winning mozzarella, ice cream buffalo milk and beers.

3

Windsor Farm Shop, Datchet Road, Old Windsor SL4 2RQ

Situated on the edge of Home Park, this well-established farm shop sells a range of products from the Royal Farms on the Windsor Estate, including quality beef, pork, lamb and seasonal game from the estate shoots. Gerry at The Inn sources venison, pheasant, partridge and hare from the Estate. The farm shop also sells produce from small local specialist suppliers.

5

Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery, Whitchurch RG28 7NR

Discover the artistry and heritage behind Bombay Sapphire at a state-of-the-art distillery, set astride the banks of the crystal clear River Test. Go behind the scenes and discover how the gin is infused with ten exotic botanicals from around the world.

Out & About

1 Inn Location - Bel & the Dragon Reading

Activities

2

Skydiving, Ipsden OX10 6AS

Take the big leap with a tandem skydive (that's the one when you're safely attached to an instructor) or an accelerated freefall where the instructors are beside you. Thrilling stuff.

3

Racing at Ascot SL5 7JX

Dating back to the 18th century and one of the best-loved racecourses in the world, Ascot is renowned for its thoroughbred racing. Royal Ascot Week in June is one of the country's key sporting and social events, attended by Her Majesty the Queen and other members of the Royal Family.

4

Bisley Shooting Ground, Bisley GU24 0NY

Founded in 1895 and situated near Brookwood, in 3,000 acres of Surrey heath and woodland, Bisley is Europe's largest sporting clay ground. Renowned for its expert tuition and excellent facilities, Bisley is just the place to try your hand at one of the country's fastest growing sports.

12

Bucklebury Farm Park, Bucklebury, Reading RG7 6RR

An ideal attraction for plenty of family fun and entertainment, Bucklebury Farm Park is located to the east of Newbury. The farm has lots of animals, play equipment and even a zip wire. You’ll also find a farm shop, café and range of picnic tables.

13

Hot-Air Ballooning over Berkshire

Weather permitting, you might get a bird’s eye view of West Berkshire and even the stunning landscape that surrounds the Pheasant. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of this corner of England than from the basket of a hot-air balloon.

24

Higginson Park, Marlow SL7 2AE

Marlow’s main open space is a classic example of a traditional urban park. The 23-acre park has a leisure centre offering a swimming pool, gym and tennis court. Frontage to the Thames means mooring for pleasure craft and boating for hire. The 180-mile Thames Path runs along the edge of the park.

25

Harleyford Golf Club, Marlow SL7 2SP

Located about two miles southwest of Marlow, Harleyford lies beside the Thames on a country estate dating back to the 13th century. The 6,714- yard, par 72 course is both challenging and rewarding to players of all levels.

26

Salter’s Boat Trips, Marlow SL7 2AE

Salter’s is the only company with a landing stage at Marlow. The route is upstream from the town, taking in spectacular stretches of the Thames, before finishing with a cruise along the renowned royal regatta course at Henley. Look out for the Devon Belle, one of the ‘little ships’ that sailed to Dunkirk in 1940.

Shopping

6

Windsor Royal Shopping SL4 1RH

Splendidly located opposite Windsor Castle, in the striking Grade II-listed Victorian railway station, this is where you can visit up to 40 individual retail outlets and an array of continental-style restaurants, cafes and bars. There’s also an arts and craft market open daily.

14

Plume SL7 1ER

Offering the best independent fashion labels from around the world, Marlow High Street-based Plume is one of the most successful women’s wear retailers.

15

The Vintage Look RG9 2AH

Based in Henley’s Hart Street, the Vintage Look offers an eclectic mix of antiques, retro and contemporary home-wares, vintage clothes and garden items. With its beamed ceilings and original features, the shop has plenty of charm and character.

16

Marlow Antiques Centre 35 Station Road, Marlow SL7 1NW

Home to over 35 dealers, the Marlow Centre sells a wide range of antiques and collectables – you’re sure to find that special something in this huge space.

18

Anne Haimes Interiors RG9 2BG

At Anne Haimes Interiors in Henley, you’ll find furnishings, furniture, lighting, bedding, mirrors, scents and accessories.

19

Asquiths Teddy Bear Shop RG9 2BT

Asquiths established the world’s first teddy bear outlets 30 years ago and trades in a 15th-century shop in the heart of Henley. Asquiths specialises in luxury handmade English teddy bears, as well as supporting many other makes.

20

Eton Antique Bookshop SL4 6AF

Described as ‘dusty, disheveled and piled high with old prints, maps and weathered editions,’ this charming old bookshop has just about every thing for the genuine bibliophile.

21

Eton College Gift Shop SL4 6BD

Quirky, unstuffy souvenir shop with frock-coated teddy bears, crockery, tea towels and even the college’s own gents’ cologne – among many other items.

22

Country House Menswear Ltd

Gentleman’s out fitter where you can maintain your personal style and preserve your individuality. Expect exquisite collection of casual wear from Europe’s leading designers. There are branches at Marlow, Beaconsfield, Amersham, Gerrards Cross, High Wycombe and Chalfont St Peter.

Places to visit

5

Windsor Great Park, Windsor SL4 2HT

Open all year, Windsor Great Park stretches for an incredible five miles and offers vast stretches of tranquil countryside and parkland in one of the busiest parts of the country. One of the park's best-known landmarks is the Savill Garden, consisting of 35 acres of woodland, magnolias, rhododendrons and herbaceous borders.

7

Highclere Castle, Highclere Park, Highclere RG20 9RN

Remodelled and virtually rebuilt by Sir Charles Barry in the mid-19th century, Highclere Castle is now one of Britain’s best-known houses, thanks to the international success of the award-winning ITV television series Downton Abbey, whose producers chose much of the interior for filming. A tour of the house and park is a must.

9

Silchester Roman Town, Reading RG7 2HG

Probably better known as Calleva Atrebatum, Silchester offers an intriguing insight into the Roman Occupation when this was the site of an important town. Walk between the walls to get a real flavour of community life during this fascinating period.

10

Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere, Newbury RG20 9JT

Built in 1926-27, Sandham is an unusual war memorial. Inside are hugely impressive and ambitious murals by Stanley Spencer, which took six years to complete and are reputed to be the most important series of decorative paintings produced in England in the 20th century. The images represent scenes from the Great War in which Spencer served as an orderly in a military hospital. The chapel is managed by the National Trust.

11

Welford Park, Newbury RG20 8HU

This is just the place to visit if you like snowdrops. The park is open daily in February when extensive drifts of this delicate little flower create a dazzling picture. The little church of St Gregory has an octagonal spire and a rare round tower. Fans of The Great British Bake Off will recognize this parkland landscape instantly. The BBC series was filmed here.

28

Warburg Nature Reserve RG9 6BL

This tranquil haven of woodland and grassland is where you’ll find a wide variety of wildlife and a nature trail. Tawny owls are known to breed here and the site includes more than 400 species of plants. The reserve is named after the late Doctor E F Warburg, an Oxford botanist

29

Windsor Castle SL4 1NJ

Founded as a fortress by William the Conqueror, the dominant feature of Windsor Castle is its Round Tower, built by Henry II and visible for miles around. Parts of the castle are open to the public.

30

Hughenden Manor HP14 4LA

Close to High Wycombe, Hughenden Manor became the home of Benjamin Disraeli in 1848. By the time he moved here, he was an established novelist and a distinguished politician. These days, Hughenden Manor belongs to the National Trust and is open to visitors.

31

Marlow

The town is one of the prettiest in the Thames Valley. The suspension bridge spanning the river is now the only surviving example of the work of designer William Tierney Clark. T.S. Eliot lived in Marlow between 1917 and 1920 and Percy Bysshe Shelley resided here a century earlier. Jerome K Jerome wrote part of Three Men in a Boat in the town.

32

Greys Court RG9 4PG

The original house was a fortified manor; the present gabled brick and flint house is Elizabethan. Managed by the National Trust, Greys Court , near Henley, includes a Tudor donkey-wheel well-house. The garden contains the Archbishop’s Maze, whose design is based on the theme of reconciliation.

33

River and Rowing Museum RG9 1BF

This fascinating Henley-based museum holds 20,000 items covering the sport of rowing, the story of the Thames and the classic book for children and adults, The Wind in the Willows, published in 1908. There are objects, photographs, books, ephemera and archive material.

34

Cliveden SL1 8NS

Perched on cliffs above the Thames near Maidenhead, Cliveden is an Italianate mansion built for the Duke of Sutherland in 1850-51. The house was once the home of the Astor family. The Profumo scandal, which rocked the government and sparked frenzied gossip in society circles, was played out here in the early 1960s. Cliveden is now a hotel but parts of the house are open to the public at certain times.

Walking

www.visitchilterns.co.uk
Close by are the lovely Chilterns – grassy hills dotted with beech woods, which look glorious in the autumn – while the scenic Thames Path offers plenty of scope for linear and circular walks. Burnham Beeches, Windsor Great Park and Black Park, near Slough, are also very popular.

Cycling

www.cycle-routes-com/england/bucks
Away from busy roads and motorways, the Thames Valley is the perfect playground for cyclists. There are lots of short to medium cycle rides, as well as longer more ambitious routes, including a trail from Windsor to Oxford.

Getting there

Location, Location, Location

By Road: The pub is located beside the River Kennet on Gas Works Road, which is accessed from Forbury Road on Reading’s ring road. Follow Sat Nav – RG1 3EQ

By Rail: Reading station is a short taxi ride or a 15-minute walk away

Address:

Blakes Lock, Gas Works Road,, Reading, Berkshire, RG4 6UP

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