George & Dragon, Kelvedon

It’s been pointed out to me that I’ve now visited the G&D three times, but have yet to write a review.  Clearly an omission to be corrected, since this is a really excellent family-run restaurant with warm and friendly service, and specialising in fresh fish – an oasis of fine cooking in the A12 corridor.

When you think about it though, there is brilliant seafood available locally – the fishermen of Mersea and Maldon are just a short journey away, and I’ve always been a fan of the Company Shed in Mersea for it’s spankingly fresh fish.  The George and Dragon are simply using the best of local resources, and good for them!

This is an eating establishment geared towards its local clientele and not to restaurant snobs or critics.  The decor is modern but warmly inviting.  I love the posters adorning the walls, and the open fire and leather sofas in the bar area.   Tables are spaced discreetly, not right on top of one another, so your conversations are not in danger of being overheard.  Definitely a place for relaxing and enjoying a leisurely meal – none of your London time-constrained sittings here.  Memory serves me badly, since I’m sure there was gently soulful jazz playing but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was – maybe that is a good sign that the ambience was not too intrusive?

The menu changes often, but is supplemented, almost dominated by the market-fresh daily fish specials board.  That said, on my first visit I ate a veal chop because I could never resist a well-cooked veal chop, and let’s face it – how often do you see that on the menu, particularly a restaurant which takes pride in good local sourcing?  Veal makes Brits go squeamish with the picture of the European milk-fed calves in crates, a great shame since rose veal is now produced humanely and is a great treat.

Getting back to the fish, since that first visit I’ve sampled skate with capers and black butter, and grilled brill – a fish which thoroughly lived up to its name!  In both cases, the fish was stupendously fresh, pearly white and melted in the mouth.  When I see fish on the counter at, say, Tesco, it always somehow looks unappealing, something you could never say of the raw materials at the G&D.  The encouraging sign is that such ingredients are treated with sympathy and flair in equal measure, cooked simply and not over-adorned with whacky combinations of ingredients in order to look flashy.  Paradoxically, enabling quality components speak for themselves with simplicity demands a confident and assured hand in the kitchen, and full marks to the George & Dragon for a fine chef who does not over-elaborate.

On my last visit, my brill was accompanied by a cockle, crayfish and saffron risotto.  Speaking as a connoisseur of risotti, especially cooking them, I am frequently disappointed that the texture in restaurants is not the moist, velvety wisp of succulence, and the rice soggy rather than al dente.  Full marks to the G&D for getting both right, though my companion felt it slightly too sloppy for her tastes.  Someday I will cook her my seafood risotto to demonstrate the point!!

The same attention to detail is carried through all the courses at this restaurant, though finding a starter I fancied was slightly harder than the main courses.  That said, a seafood pasta dish was accompanied by a fine home-made tomato sauce, and a game terrine proved truly sublime, moist and flavoursome.  Vanilla and orange blossom creme brûlée was equally fine, demonstrating that lost art of making proper thick, creamy custard from eggs, cream, sugar and vanilla rather than hurling starch into the mix.

Prices are sub-London, which I mean as a compliment; what you might expect to pay for a good quality dinner comprised of fresh ingredients cooked on the premises, without the cynical mark-up of a restaurant cocking a snook at diners.  It was good value and I am happy to return, which in the era of brand loyalty is all you can ever ask of a customer.

In short, I warmly commend the George and Dragon to everyone within easy reach of Kelvedon, and no, they are not paying me to say so!!

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