The Green Dragon, Gloucestershire
PUBLISHED: 18:00 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 February 2013
In search of the best Cotswold pubs in which to be wined and dined, local author GM Bell thinks he may have stumbled on one that's so good he nearly decided to keep it to himself!
Don't know where The Green Dragon is? Oh, you haven't eaten there yet? Do you yourself a favour and put this pub on your "must eat at it" list, but can I ask you a small favour: please don't tell too many of your friends as I'd still like to be able to get a table on a Friday lunch time. As with all classic pubs The Green Dragon gets the basics right: excellent food, good service and ambience you wish you could package and sell in boxes.
The resident managers were fortunate enough to have a chef with an unfortunate name respond to an employment advert two and half years ago, and things started to bubble away nicely from there. Ian Dick is cooking exceptional food here and is clearly enjoying treating diners to his creative yet simplistic fare. The menu changes each week and reflects what's in season, it's also reassuringly compact because chef knows that he can spend more time getting every dish to hatch a satisfying smile on each patron's face - chefs' want nothing more.
You can choose to eat in the informal Mouse Bar (my preference) that surrounds the main bar or the larger Lower Bar. Log fires radiate both rooms in winter and there's always the comfortable patio garden at the front should nature decide to be generous on the day of your visit. Part of the draw to The Green Dragon is its tucked away location, which gives you the satisfying feeling that you are among a privileged few that know that it exists.
Once inside this 17th century inn its refined yet traditional dcor will have you remodeling your living room in no time. Flagstoned floors with stories etched into their faces, wonky beams from ancient forests and the sight of lip-smacking Butcombe on draft will quickly make you wish The Green Dragon was opposite your house rather than down a windy Gloucestershire lane in the middle of no where. Service is fine, on time and professional, but can at times lack some warmth. The staff is well briefed which means diners get exact answers rather than dumbfounded stares.
Not Just Any Old Pork
But back to the main draw card: the food. What I particularly like about Ian's creations is that he shoehorns you into trying dishes that you wouldn't ordinarily eat. For example I'm not a big pork fan but how could you pass up on an opportunity to sample pulled ham hock on wilted Savoy cabbage and mashed potato with Dijon cream? I'm not sure what was pulled but what arrived was a tower of mash on a foundation of cabbage, with tender ham crowning its top and a moat of Dijon cream to finish it off - delectable.
I'm not a meringue fan either, but when it's called strawberry and champagne meringue, I am. You can see that by adding highly complimentary ingredients to the seemingly ordinary the chef creates something that invites you out of your comfort zone and into new taste realms. That's clever.
The managers of this charming hostelry are Simon and Nicola Haly. They have been in the pub business for 20 years and know how to manage costs so as to ensure the food that ends up on diners' plates doesn't cost the earth. It may sound like a simple thing to do but in fact its complexity can make or break a pub business. Offering good food at a reasonable price has to be at the heart of every pub's strategy and The Green Dragon are on the money in this department. Up to date menus and prices can be found on the pub website www.green-dragon-inn.co.uk
Nature has thrown a fair share of its wrath toward the Cotswold pub trade in recent times: floods, sky rocketing oil prices and a shortage of asparagus to name a few. In truth it was always thus, but with rising inflation, and an economic squeeze under way pubs are beginning to find life tough going and only the very best pubs, as ever, will survive. Provided the trio of Simon, Nicola and Ian are in residence I predict that The Green Dragon Inn at Cockleford will be one such pub, but please don't tell every one.