Ardleigh and Dragon in Hornchurch, Romford is one of those restaurants you have to either know about, be told about, or stumble across to really appreciate the beauty and fresh flavours inspired by Thailand. Housed in a former pub that wasn’t really the type of venue that attracted savoury types, Orchid Pubs and Dining took over the site over seven years ago and have done a sterling job of making it a fine pub and restaurant to visit.
What’s that you say? It’s a pub and a restaurant? Yes, that’s right. When you arrive, that’s made clear from the start, with “English pub” one one side of the building and “Thai Dining” on the other. Make no mistake that the Ardleigh & Dragon intends to give its customers an authentic Thai dining experience in an English pub, with an Oriental theme throughout.
To think I grew up less than five miles away from Ardleigh and Dragon and never visited is shocking. Why did I not know about this beauty?
Located on a nondescript high street in Hornchurch, Romford, yummy mummies are known to frequent the pub in between school runs to enjoy lunch and probably a spot of gossip. And why wouldn’t they, as soon as you step into the pub and peer through to the formal dining area at the back you can see why it deserves to be the sort of place you go for respite and to enjoy a lovely meal whilst savouring the flavours of the east, in Romford.
I visited with a very good friend, also from Romford to check it out.
The first thing I’m struck by at Ardleigh and Dragon is the seating in the restaurant area. It’s a an ample sized restaurant with a selection of tables for couples, small groups, large groups and even private dining areas which I think would be fantastic for special birthday or other celebration meals. I love the dark wood they have infused through the restaurant giving a warm feel and plush dining chairs which would frankly dis-encourage me from leaving!
The food at Ardleigh and Dragon is a sight to behold, with a genuine Thai chef preparing the dishes. The menu is very vast, with a high certainty of all tastes being catered for. Whether you are a meat, fish, seafood, rice, noodle, or stir fry eater – you can find it all on the menu, including the staple of prawn crackers which we happily snacked on whilst perusing the menu! What is it about prawn crackers that makes them SO moreish!?
There are a large selection of starters on offer. The sharing platter is the best way to try a few different things to tease your appetite. Both my friend and I are keen fans of seafood so we decided to opt for the Kingfish Platter which offered the most selection of seafood – Tempura prawns, Thai fish cakes, steamed dim sum, sesame prawn toast and crispy salt and pepper squid. The platter was served with sweet chilli and satay sauces and the portion was perfect, not too much to fill us up before our mains.
I just wanted everything from the mains. I couldn’t choose from the vast selection! I knew I wasn’t in the mood for soup as it was a rather warm day. So that narrowed it down to JUST a wok dish, salad, skillet, curry, noodles or rice dish. Ok!
My friend had a skillet dish, which arrived at our table impressively sizzling. She was a bit apprehensive about oyster sauce – I guess if you haven’t had it before you don’t really know what the taste is like. I reassured her that it enhances the flavour and it’s not like you’re eating oysters at all! She was convinced.
I tasted the Sew Tai Har, which was large king prawns grilled in the shell with black pepper, coriander, garlic and oyster sauce. The prawns were extremely flavoursome and the oyster sauce was delicious. Stir-fried noodles and mixed vegetables provided the perfect accompaniment to the dish.
I used my old adage to choose my main course – I always try to choose what I wouldn’t usually cook at home. In this case, that was snapper. Or Pla Krop Rad Kratiem. Crisp red snapper with black pepper, garlic, coriander, soy sauce and oyster sauce.
The snapper was delicious, although I preferred my friends oyster sauce! The real winner for me though was the Thai fragrant coconut rice. It had fresh coconut on top and I’d never tasted anything like it. At the same time it was subtle enough to not overpower the snapper.
By the time we were enjoying dessert, a few more people had started to walk in.
Dessert was interesting! We shared Lotee Sai Mapraw – Pandan flavoured warm pancake filled with sweetened coconut, drizzled with honey, served with vanilla ice cream. When it arrived I think we were both taken aback – it was green! Delicious though. filled with coconut, the vanilla ice cream was the perfect companion. We shared dessert as we were after all out for lunch!The front of the pub had a few wandering in for drinks, with the weather so lovely, there were also families outside in the garden enjoying drinks and the sunshine. 124 Ardleigh Green Road
RM11 2SH 01708 442 550
**I visited Ardleigh and Dragon on behalf of tastecard.**