Monday, 28 April 2014

The George and the Dragon

The George and the Dragon is a large old pub in the centre of the smallest town in Britain.
I'm not sure how Fordwich is still classified as a town when in reality it is smaller than a lot of the villages around us, but apparently it is due to the fact that it still has a town council.  Either way, it has long been on my list of dream destinations to live in because it is just so pretty!
It is just up the road from Canterbury, a 5 minute drive if the traffic in Sturry is behaving itself and you don't catch the train crossing at the wrong moment, and right on the banks of the River Stour. It is filled with windy narrow streets and ancient stone cottages covered in purple flowering wisteria all lining the green banks of the river.  There is also a church, a town hall, and another pub.  Even a town this small has to have at least two pubs to its name, otherwise people gossiping about each other will be forced to share bar space.
Fordwich used to be a major port destination for Canterbury when it (and Canterbury) were still cut off from Thanet by the Wantsum channel which has long since silted up, but nowadays the most exciting thing you are likely to find on this stretch of the river is the annual Summer Duck Race.  Which by the way I have already booked into my diary and plan on entering.
The George and the Dragon is a popular destination for us.  We frequently drive out here, especially in the summer to soak up the sun in the garden or play board games by the fire in the winter.  I once got so drunk one Halloween after a meal with friends that I inadvertently cheated at Cluedo and ruined the game for everyone.  It was the first time I had ever played and I'm not convinced that I really understood the rules, at least I certainly didn't after 3 bottles of red wine.  We also got to name a Halloween cocktail that night; it's one of the last things I clearly remember.
The George has been in Fordwich since around the 1400's and as with any building that old, is apparently haunted.   'The Lady with the Green Hat' is thought to wander the pub and grounds and the story goes that the telephone downstairs, although having been disconnected many years ago, still rings at times.  To be honest I have never seen a ghost here, although I normally distracted by other things, such as my food.  And my wine glass.  And the dessert menu.
The menu at the George is extensive, changes seasonally and is normally good.  I say normally as the day that I visited with friends to celebrate Ellie's birthday, we had a less than steller meal and the service was quite slow but this is an anomaly for this place.  I've had dinner here 3 or 4 times and lunch at least 10 times and the food is normally much better, although it can be pricey.  Starters average around the £6, mains around £14 and bottles of wine around £20.
Previously I have eaten the goats cheese tart, the burger, the steak sandwich, the ribs and the fish and chips (not all in one sitting I hasten to add) and they have all been wonderful.  I have had business lunches here and staff development days and they have always been incredibly accommodating.   I had the King Prawn Indonesian Curry this time round and found it to be tasty, but too salty and the same went for my olives which hadn't been rinsed of their liquor and so were almost inedible towards the bottom of the ramiken they were served in.  Steve's burger was unfortunately chargrilled, and not in a good way and his cheesy garlic bread was topped with cheddar instead of mozzarella.  Our friends said that their fish pie, the gnocchi and the duck breast were both very good and the steak and the charcuterie board both looked magnificent as well so it is possible that Steve and I just ordered badly this time!
In the past the George has also done a Tuesday pudding club (great for people like me with an incredibly sweet tooth) but I can't find any information as to whether or not this is still going on.

I love coming here for the atmosphere though.  It is a higgledy-piggledy building filled with truly ancient beams (some of which are so pitted from long dead wood worm that you wonder how on earth they are still holding together), wooden floorboards and huge open fireplaces with worn leather chesterfield arm chairs in front.
Everything about this place is warm and comforting and it is always filled with a relaxed, chattering crowd from Fordwich and the surrounding areas.  The George is divided into three clear zones, the bar, the restaurant and the garden.  It doesn't really matter where you sit though as you can order the same food and drink in any area.
The River Stour is famous for its trout fishing, boasting a breed of salmon trout that is local to Fordwich and you can see signs of the river's influence all over the George (although surprisingly, not on the menu!)
I mentioned that garden, which is one of the main draws of the George in the summer months and can become completely packed with the Sunday luncher crowd, aided by the presence of a boules court.  You may wish to consider booking on a Saturday or Sunday lunchtime in the heart of summer!
When I was little, my parents used to make an hour and a half drive out to the countryside (no idea where) just so we could go for Sunday lunch at a particular pub.  It was the quintessential English pub, utterly charming, relaxed and friendly.  The George has that same feeling for me, it feels like a true country establishment at the center of a community which is holding onto its traditions.  Even the name is about as traditional as you can get!  I think that this is why it feels more like a village than a town - you can imagine it still having a May Day Festival, complete with Maypole!
I love this pub, which is why I was so disappointed with our last visit.  You just hope that you got them on an off day and that they were short-staffed in the kitchen or some such excuse.  I would hate to see this pub lose its focus.

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  1. Splendid review - I've cycled to Fordwich recently (I know - ME), and have been keen to try out one of the town's two pubs ever since. Now I must.

    1. I'd be happy to test the other one with you...