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Dinner review: The Green Dragon, Barnet

PUBLISHED: 09:53 05 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:53 05 September 2016

Green Dragon, South Mimms

Green Dragon, South Mimms

Brian Arnopp Images

Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne visits an historic hostelry near Barnet making a name for itself

Interiors at Green Dragon Interiors at Green Dragon

A bit of Googling to find a likely eaterie for my attention somewhere around Barnet brought up The Green Dragon. Initial research was supported by a flurry of favourable reviews, with TripAdvisor rating it 4.5 out of five and ranking it No1 of 87 restaurants in the area. On the restaurant’s website however, I was taken aback to find no menu details. This has since been corrected, but it meant for my visit I was flying blind and made those online reviews even more important.

Given the address, I expected a town-bound pub and was pleasantly surprised to find the satnav pointing me towards open countryside instead. The place is nearer South Mimms – M25 and all – but don’t let that put you off. The Dragon counters this by being in open countryside with the motorway a mere whisper, if that, and plenty to take your mind off it, including an attractive open-air terrace for when the weather is right. A log fire inside replaces it in winter.

It is also historic. The site dates from the 18th century and has housed a pub for as long as anyone can remember. That’s because St Albans Road was once one of the main routes north from London, pre-dating even the Great North Road, so hostelries at regular intervals were always a good idea. From such beginnings, the Green Dragon has emerged – and is now being busily promoted – as a destination pub rather than one you pass on your way somewhere else.

Scallops Scallops

As with many similar businesses, the menus here change regularly to take advantage of seasonal ingredients. There is an à la carte offering on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays while an evening two-course set menu at £11.95 is served from Monday to Wednesday. A two-course set lunch is £9.95, while evening bargains include two-for-one burgers on Monday and two-for-one steaks on Tuesday. Part of the menu is created using a Josper grill, also appearing in more and more restaurants and favoured by chefs for the charcoal taste it imparts to meats.

For our visit this time we had a third taster as my daughter was celebrating her birthday, which gave us three opinions instead of the usual two and a chance to sample a broader range of dishes. We found a fairly typical food offering for an evening meal with a choice of six starters, seven mains, three steaks (all cooked in a charcoal oven) and three burger dishes listed under the Josper grill section. There were also two more mains on the specials board.

Starters were an instant hit thanks to the presence of three family favourites. Salt and pepper baby squid (£5.95), now fairly common but enlivened here with lemon and paprika aioli, proved a hit while my daughter was delighted with her pan-seared scallops (£9.95), which came with butternut-squash purée but also chorizo salsa and mint syrup to add some tang to the fishiness. One of my favourites, seared English asparagus (£6.50) with poached egg, hollandaise sauce and cracked black pepper, was equally well-received, the egg in the correct state of runniness and the hollandaise as light as it should be. Also vying for attention was the intriguing-sounding duck scotch egg (£6.95) with cauliflower cheese-and-nut crumble and fried shallots, but we had to make a choice and there’s always next time.

Brownie and ice cream Brownie and ice cream

Among the main course specials, I was happy to see a fish-plus-pasta combination, one of my favourites but not often offered, perhaps because it needs a really delicate touch to do properly. This was linguine with poached turbot fillet (£19.95), served with prawns and crab in a chilli, garlic and white wine sauce. Nicely done, well presented and with the bonus of leaving a tasty fish broth in the bowl to enjoy after the seafood had been eaten.

Also on special was another comparative rarity on modern menus, pan-fried calves liver (£15.95) with truffle mash, honey bacon and red wine jus. This is usually a no-brainer for my fellow critic and so it proved here, a straightforward and satisfying plateful, though she noted the truffle in the mash was rather hard to detect.

Number three critic went for the seared duck breast (£15.95) with foie gras croquette, braised cabbage, parsnip purée and panned quail egg. We all had a taste and approved of the duck and we were impressed by the addition of the quail egg, a slightly-exotic touch to emphasise the richness of the meat.

Two favourites on the dessert menu, Eton mess (£5.50) and chocolate brownie (£5.95), rounded things off pleasantly, while the accompanying sauvignon blanc (New Zealand First Dawn, 2015) proved a good choice.

Efficient and friendly service and light and airy surroundings on a summer’s evening set the seal on this first visit. The Green Dragon is clearly well looked after and there is a dedication apparent in the cooking, all good reasons to go again.

The cost of this meal for two was £77.80 and for three £109.65, plus service. This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

Book a table

The Green Dragon

2 St Albans Road, Barnet EN5 4RE. 020 8449 2972. thegreendragonbarnet.co.uk

3 of a kind

Seriously foodie pubs

The Orange Tree

166 West Road, Sawbridgeworth CM21 0BP. 01279 722485. theorangetreepub.com

Good example of the traditional village pub updated to offer classic English dishes and craft beers. Sunday lunch a speciality.

The Tilbury

Watton Road, Datchworth SG3 6TB. 01438 815550. thetilbury.co.uk

Holder of two AA Rosettes, this village pub run by James and Tom Bainbridge focuses on British cuisine and flavours plus pub classics.

The Valiant Trooper

Trooper Road, Aldbury, Tring HP23 5RW. 01442 851203. valianttrooper.co.uk

Classic pub created from 17th-century alehouse cottages in a picturesque village. Busy restaurant features a wide choice of food.

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