What the gastropub group does offer, however, is exceptional British pub food with a difference – whether it be roasted suckling pig, partridge with braised red cabbage, or baked Alaska – using the vast experience of executive group head chef Ronnie Kimbugwe to its advantage.
While the menus across the seven-strong group are the same, their monthly-changing nature means the food offer at Bel & The Dragon is a moveable feast that revolves around seasonality and the use of the best available produce.
Kimbugwe, who has spent much of his career working at Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin-starred restaurants in the capital, has put his fine dining experience to good use with inventive menus that make Bel & The Dragon stand out from its peers.
Judges were particularly impressed with the company’s use of premium seasonal ingredients, such as Norwegian Skrei cod, while at the same time keeping menu prices very competitive. Its family-style sharing options and the flambéeing of dishes tableside to add greater theatre to the dining experience were also deemed by the judging panel to give the group the edge over its rivals.
“Bel & The Dragon is breathing new life into classic pub dishes and artfully combining British food with those with an international accent – whether it be with its duck shepherd’s pie, salt-baked saddle of lamb for the table or chicken Milanese,” says judge Stefan Chomka. “The company’s dedication to creating a menu that has something for everyone but which eschews the obvious pub staples is commendable, as is the exceptional value for money that it offers.”
There’s more to come from the company, with plans to open a cookery school at one of its sites as well as a deli, where some of its best-selling dishes, such as Ronnie’s fish pie, can be bought to be prepared at home.