If this blog post is the first time you’ve heard of The St George and Dragon Inn, you may be surprised to learn that you’ve driven by it on your way to Darts Farm or perhaps on a trip into Topsham. This unassuming inn, located on a little roundabout on the way into Clyst St George (starting to ring bells?) dates back to the 19th Century and originally comprised of a brew house, skittle alley, garden stables and a three-acre arable field. However, by the 1920’s The St. George and Dragon had become one of the leading roadhouses in the UK and was described in auction details as “the most unique inn in Devon.” Needless to say, when we were invited along to sample its refurbished decor and brand new menu, we were intrigued to see what the inn would offer…
It was a particularly sunny day when we visited St George & Dragon and by the time we arrived for a late lunch the beer garden was in full swing. Inside, the atmosphere was also buzzing and the pubs brand new refurb was really looking the part. Complete with chesterfield style armchairs, dark wood fittings and the occasional quirky accessory (such as a very cool anthropomorphic dog portrait) the restaurant really looked original for a branch of Vintage Inns.
So far, so good. Plus, it was already becoming clear that the St George had a very strong front of house team. Despite the surge in business brought on by the sun, the staff didn’t appear at all fazed and their new manager Lesley – and her assistant Chantelle – had all the staff working like clockwork. It’s nice to feel like every individual you encounter at a restaurant is genuinely enjoying their job, as I maintain that that is an important part of delivering good service.
But decor and service aside, it was time to try the food..
To start, we chose to share the Duo of Pâté’. This came on what I can only describe as an unusually presented plate and consisted of a coarse pork pate, a madeira & bacon pate, and an oak smoked chicken liver parfait. These were all served alongside a Bramley apple butter, baby gherkins and rustic bread. Both my dining partner and I agreed that the pâté’s were tasty and the pork in particular had a great seasoning that wasn’t dissimilar to the pork stuffing we occasionally enjoy with Sunday lunch. The liver parfait was nice and smooth and went down well with the seeded bread. Likewise, the gherkins added a lovely bit of crunch to the plate. Although I later found out that the pate had been bought in, I still thought it was a pleasant start to the meal.
For his main course, my dining partner got in first and ordered the Hunters Chicken. Chargrilled chicken breast arrived at the table topped with smoked cheddar and ginger beer glazed streaky bacon, served with triple-cooked chips and barbecue sauce. I must admit, I was pretty jealous of his plate and I insisted on trying a forkful. There could be no doubt that the dish was 100% pub grub, but it was delicious. The chicken was moist, the bacon was soft and the ginger glaze really made a difference to the meat. Good job.
Having been beaten to the post for the Hunters Chicken, I opted for a pub classics: Beer Battered Line-Caught Cod with Triple Cooked Chips, Mushy Peas and Samphire Tartar Sauce. I found the portion size to be very generous and the fish was nicely cooked. Overall, I enjoyed my plate of food, but I did find the chips to be on the dry side. Not a patch on the Hunters Chicken but a satisfying lunch nonetheless.
For pudding, we very greedily chose the Pudding Taster Platter . Yes, you read that correctly – you can order multiple puddings at St George and Dragon. But believe me when I say that this dessert is HUGE. Personally, I thought it was a fantastic idea for those of us who can’t make our minds up about what we want for pudding. Had the portion sizes been a little smaller, it would have been ideal for me. On the platter we had a warm apple pie with a jug of custard; a rich and indulgent Belgian chocolate brownie (complete with salted caramel ice cream); a Melba mellow mess, which was essentially Eaton Mess with melted marshmallows and fruit; and incase that wasn’t enough, we also had a Crème Brûlée. This last dessert was my favourite, as it was creamy and full of natural vanilla flavour. The presentation was a bit of a hot mess but boy was it all tasty!
Having seen the ale’s all lined up on the bar, I just had to try a couple of them. I was disappointed to find very few local beverages on offer but I put this down to the pub being part of Vintage Inns. I sampled the very popular Doom Bar Ale, which I thought was refreshing and light and then I went for a glass of Reverend James, which I particularly enjoyed thanks to its caramel-like aftertaste. Obviously, it would have been nice to see a little more support for local producers, but lovers of ale won’t go far wrong with the selection on offer.
What we thought
The team at St George and Dragon are currently pulling out all the stops to make this newly refurbished inn a success. I have no doubt that their hard work will get the inn back on the local map and I would be more than happy to recommend popping in for a spot of lunch and a pint of ale any day of the week. We enjoyed good pub grub at a higher standard than many of their nearby competitors, and we had zero complaints about the service. Obviously, as a blog we love to sing the praises of independent businesses, so reviewing a Vintage Inn may seem a little strange but in all honestly, the St George’s franchise status makes very little difference to our opinions. With good pubs and inns closing every day, I’d be happy to throw my support behind this charming team and encourage locals to give it a try.