“ Bel and The Dragon / Blakes Lock, off Kenavon Drive (behind the Prudential Building) / Reading / RG1 3DH / Tel: 0118 951 5790 / Fax: 0118 951 5791. „
Bel and The Dragon is in great spot just on the river Kennet at Blakes Lock. The old boat repair building has been well renovated to provide a wonderful setting for a meal. The dining area is large, light and spacious and the bar area is cosy and welcoming, perfect for if you just fancy a drink or whether you may wish tto relax after your meal in more confortable surroundings
I've never been in the summer and sat out of the river terrace but it looks stunning. The food is a little pricey but always well done - the corn fed chicken with chips is simple but superb. There is a set menu at the restaurant, which offers better value, and there is often a good choice of food on te reduced menu as well.
Service can be a bit hit and miss (the last time I went, the waitress had to make 3 attempts to bring over coffee as she kept slipping them on herself, the floor and, eventually, me!)
Service aside, its a nice place to eat
For a couple that eat around Reading quite a lot, we find the food, staff & ambience great at Bel. Trust me, there aren't that many restaurants where the staff actually give a **** if you have a decent meal. Bel do & pride themselves on it. Lush Walrus please dont waste your time going there if you moan about the staff - give your seat to me! Also check your geography & realise its South Africa the majority of the staff are from not Australia....
We have been going to Bel for years & will continue to do so as long as their standards stay high & exemplary as they currently are.
Well done to Bel & the team!
I use to work at Bel and The Dragon and it was GREAT!!!We only got good comments for the friendly staff, and I quote "you have a well-oiled-machine here..."Its hard smiling all the time & doing the amount of people (about 150 per shift). I dare anyone (lush walrus) who's not in this trade to go work there for 1 day and see how you do. GO BEL-TEAM!!!
Sometimes you hit upon something in life that you know suits you to the ground, The Bel and Dragon in Reading is one of those somethings for me. After first visiting in 2004, Ive been back at every opportunity. Its hard to put into writing exactly what it is about the place that I like so much, yes it has nice food, nice ambience and is close to where I live, but somehow there is more to it that draws me back time and time again.
History of the restaurant
It first opened in roughly 2004, after converting a previously disused building. It originally formed part of the Bel and Dragon group, but in recent times the small chain has been sold, with the founding couple keeping only this restuarant.
Location & Building
As with most good restaurants I find, its slightly off the beaten track. For anyone who knows Reading, there is a very definite town centre with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars. Combined with the newest shopping centre The Oracle, it has plenty of choices, but for me the extra trek is more than worth it for the Bell and Dragon.
Although a short walk from the centre, its a little tucked away, and if travelling by car through the one way systems of Reading, if you miss the discrete sign then back round you go, so take a map with you and call ahead to find the exact route to the car park. As it is next to the river, you can navigate yourself by following that as you can see it clearly from there.
The building itself is beautiful, with the conversion to a restaurant done incredibly sensitively in a modern colonial style. There is a small bar area at the entrance, that is nice to pop into for an afternoon Irish Coffee with the main restaurant beyond in a larger space. The layout is generous and open. No two tables are close enough together to hear each others conversations, even though there is no music. A small terrace outside adds an extra 10 or so tables on a nice summers evening.
Internally, most of the walls have witty etchings on them that are worth a glance and read of. All of them are based on Reading and the people within it, but even if you do not know the history of Reading or anything about it I am sure you will enjoy the wit.
The photograph, really does not do it any justice!
As the space is open, its probably not the restaurant to choose if you want a cosy romantic meal. There are some little booths tucked away but the atmosphere is much more suited to families during the early evening, and groups of friends and couples looking for good food in the later hours. There is no music played, but there is a steady hum of conversation instead. Buzzy and upbeat would be the words I would use to describe it rather than the cool icy space that many restaurants style themselves towards at the moment.
I thought this might be the place to fit this part in and get it over with. I hate to say it as I love the place so much but the service although efficient, is much to be desired. Its a very strange thing, but although the bar staff are polite and appear happy in their work, the waiting staff are, well to put it politely, not happy in their job. We have probably been to the restaurant to eat in excess of 15 times in the last year or so, its amazing that every single time the waiting staff have been so lacking in finesse. Yes they can all answer your questions about anything on the menu, and yes they can most certainly serve hot and delicious food, but why they are all so miserable maybe only the owners know.
The staff seem to be mainly travellers passing through the area from Oz and are provided with accommodation on a little boat moored outside if they require it, so maybe they are all just sick of the location by the time they come to work.
Efficient and bearable is how I would describe the service, but I can honestly say is the only downside of the restaurant. The service is not included so you do have the option to not leave a tip if you wish, for some reason we generally do, which is probably just encouraging the waiting staff to continue as they are.
Absolutely gorgeous just about sums it up!
We have tried a whole variety of the menu and have not come across something badly cooked yet. The food is cooked freshly on a wood-burning oven, rather than re-heated so it can take a little time to get your food, but as the atmosphere is lovely this really isnt a chore. The food is always served piping hot, well presented and plenty of it. With regards to style, really it falls into modern British food, with a good mixture of fish, meat and one or two vegetarian options, so something for everyone. If you opt for a meat or fish dish, then you can pretty much guarantee that you will be able to taste the fish or meat, rather than have that feeling where the taste is so bland that it could be any animal you are eating! As the menu changes quite often, its hard to really recommend a dish, but generally you will find lamb, chicken, beef, duck and pork presented in some form or other on the menu. I have never felt that I made the wrong choice so try what you fancy I am sure you will love it! Most of the dishes come with veg and enough on the plate to provide a suitable meal. There is a good selection of side orders, but I would really recommend asking the waiting staff what comes with any meal you fancy ordering as we have found that 99% of the time there is enough on the plate to rule out any side orders.
Once the meal has been served potatoes are brought around separately and served again piping hot.
Whenever we go we have the feeling that this is a treat rather than a way to fill up. Although in reality it isnt very much more expensive than some of the other places we dont blink at eating in, perhaps it is something to do with the requirement to book that gives us the impression that it is more expensive than it is or the fact that it is a place that you linger in rather than eat and go. The average price for a main course is in reality about £12-14, but there are always meals on the menu that go above £20 and some that are below £10, so really there is something for everyones pocket. As the portions are generous, its not really possible to eat all 3 courses unless you have starved yourself completely! Generally, we eat either a starter or a dessert and a main course.
If there are two of you late on a Saturday or mid week, then probably you can be fitted in somewhere without booking. But any more than two people and you really do have to book, and earlier than just the day before. We often go with 4 plus people, and generally find that if we leave booking till 2 or 3 days before we can only get a table after 9, and sometimes not at all. If you know the date you are going to be visiting then you can not book early enough. As a rule we book 3 or 4 weeks before if we want the peak time of 8ish on a Saturday and about a week before if we are not too bothered what time of the evening we eat.
The bar is open traditional pub hours 11am-11pm Mon to Sat, 11am 10.30pm on Sunday.
The restaurant itself is open for lunch 12-2.30pm each day, re-opening at 6pm with last food order to be placed before 10pm. It then seems to stay open until the last few people have left, we have certainly been in there still past 12. But, really I would only do this when there are a few tables left as although the waiting staff are grumpy, its still not nice to keep them waiting!.
Gas Works Road
Tel: 01189 515790
Fax: 01189 515791
Take a look as it generally have a sample of the menu available and some more pics that will give you a better idea.
As you can guess from reading, I really think this restaurant is worth a visit, so if you find yourself in the area pop in at least for a drink.