Monday, 11 June 2018
George & Dragon - Speldhurst
Our son Matthew, passed his driving test at the tail end of last year. He finally got round to buying himself a car back in March; although to be fair to him, the delay was partly caused by his mother being laid up in hospital for seven weeks at the beginning of the year, and me not having sufficient time to spend looking at suitable vehicles with him.
On Sunday, we took a drive over to nearby Southborough, in order to visit the Majestic Wines outlet situated there. Being a lager fan, Matthew has taken quite a liking to the re-vamped Hofmeister Lager, which was relaunched in blaze of publicity around 18 months ago. This time around, the beer has much more genuine credentials, being brewed in Bavaria under the strictures of the Reinheitsgebot, rather than being just another big-brewery brand, promoted by a “jack-the-lad” bear.
Well Majestic was a nicely laid-out store, with friendly and helpful staff, but it is much more of a wine merchant’s than a beer stockist. So needless to say, Hofmeister was nowhere to be seen, although Matt did pick up a case of Radeburger, and I acquired a pack of "King Hop Lager", brewed specially for the chain by Meantime Brewery.
George & Dragon, a rather splendid looking half-timbered building which can trace its origins back to the 13th Century.
The G&D is situated opposite the village church, towards the top of a rather steep hill. Going back to when I worked in the High Brooms area of Tunbridge Wells, it was one of my favourite pubs for a lunchtime drink, even though it was a bit of a drive. Lunchtimes in those days, were slightly more flexible, so arriving back late on the odd occasion, didn’t raise too many eyebrows.
According to the website, in May 2017 the pub was acquired by Silverlake Leisure, with the aim of providing local bitters, good wines, simply cooked local and seasonal food using the bountiful produce from the surrounding heart of Kent.
Nothing much seemed to have changed, which was re-assuring, with the same old flagstone floor, worn smooth over the course of the centuries by the passage of many feet, and the massive inglenook fireplace opposite the bar. There were three cask ales on tap; Harvey’s Sussex, Larkin’s Traditional and Brakspear’s Oxford Gold. I went for the Harvey’s and was glad I did, as it was in fine form, scoring 4.0 on the NBSS.
The bar was virtually empty, as most people were sitting outside enjoying the fine weather. There are areas both in front of the pub, as well as behind, where customers can enjoy their drink or their meal out in the fresh air. Matthew and I opted for the former, and from our table in the shade of the front of the pub, we could see across to the Parish Church of St Mary's.
Despite having known the pub on and off for the past 40 years, I have never been upstairs, but the upper floor is home to a 70 seater restaurant, set beneath the ancient oak beams of the rafters. There is also a much smaller private dining room, which can hold up to 14 people.
Obviously a building of this age is full of character, so it is pleasing to see that many of the ancient features have been retained. The beer range is not as extensive as it was in the early 1980's, when I first became acquainted with the pub, but given the known quality issues associated with stocking too many casks, this is no bad thing.
So if you fancy a trip back in time, then do yourselves a favour and pop in. You won't find food at "Pub Grub" prices, but if you do feel like pushing the boat out, then the George & Dragon looks like the ideal place to do so.