Situated near Bridge number 23 next to the 93 mile long Trent and Mersey canal sits Willington’s original public house, the 150 year old Dragon Inn, serving fine food and quality ales. If that isn’t enough information to get you down there I don’t know what it is that floats your boat!
With a population in 1828 of around 400, Willington has grown to become an extremely popular village, partly due to its situation only six miles south of Derby. Our journey by car from the office in Alfreton to The Dragon, down the A38 took us under 30 minutes or five hours by canal boat! With a car park to the rear and also a public car park next-door, parking is easy and convenient.
The Dragon boasts the same standard that we have come to expect from Bespoke Inns, who also have The Boot at Repton, and Harpurs in Melbourne in their repertoire. Originally purchased in 2011, the past 7 years have seen extensive developments including the purchase of the cottages adjoining The Dragon which now incorporate boutique bedrooms, conservatory and function rooms and a formal dining room all decorated and furnished with flourish and style in keeping with this 17th building. It still retains a traditional pub feel, and from the bar you can choose from a growing selection of quality, locally brewed beers from the famous Boot Brewery. I was privileged a few months ago to test the new ‘rhubarb’ ale while still in its early stage but now in full production. Worth a try I feel.
The latest addition to The Dragon is a beautiful out door area encased in glass giving you the option of dining ‘inside -outdoors’ or in the garden, which is ‘outside-outdoors’. With so much to see on this busy part of the canal you can watch as the prettily decorated boats carefully pass each other, some with skill and care and others who are decidedly novices, but hugely entertaining. Sheltered from the breeze and weather, dining here still has a classic ‘alfresco’ feel with none of the inconvenience. It was here in the new 360 degree glass garden room, only a few feet away from the Trent and Mersey canal that we settled for our lunch on a partly sunny, partly breezy, cloudy day, but that didn’t matter.
The lunch menu is set to cater for all and we watched as platters of sandwiches loaded with filling, and chunky burgers passed us. We however chose the salmon from the specials board and the pasta Amatriciana from the lunch menu. My wife’s salmon was golden at the edges and beautifully cooked, served with purple sprouting and crushed new potatoes with buttered spinach, a dash of Grenoble sauce, and an addition of finely diced relish, she said it was the perfect lunchtime dish. The penne pasta chosen by myself was also delicious, scattered with pinenuts and sunblush tomatoes and a basil sauce, it also had a generous piece of grilled chicken.
Feeling in a relaxed mood, we indulged in a pudding, choosing an all time favourite; summer pudding with Prosecco soaked berries, a hint of tarragon and vanilla crème fraiche, such a clean, fresh taste to finish with.
The large new kitchen, spec’d up with all the latest fittings certainly produces great food and is well abreast of providing meals for 400 guests on a Sunday lunch as well as hearty breakfasts served from 8am to 11.30 weekdays and until 11am Sundays. The main menu starts from 12 noon until 9pm every day. Every sunny day a very professional looking barbeque area comes into play which is extremely popular.
Offering an eclectic mix, The Dragon has quiet areas for dinning or, if you are looking to enjoy a family celebration, you can hire one of their larger rooms. The new glass garden room is also available to hire, and I can imagine what a perfect venue it would be as the sun goes down, with the boats as a backdrop
We were quite disappointed when it was time to leave, I was enjoying the ambience, the food and the Clod Hopper bitter. Given a little longer I’m sure we would have seen Tim and Prunella go by along with David and Victoria, or is that fanciful thinking, such was the atmosphere.