The George & Dragon, High Street, Rowde, Devizes, Wiltshire

This Wiltshire gastropub is renowned for its seafood; and there's certainly something fishy going on here...

"Would you like some bread while you look at the menu?" An innocuous enough proposal but when it really means, "May I charge you for something you believe is free?", I get resentful. If the rest of the experience during my visit to the George & Dragon in the village of Rowde, Wiltshire, was exemplary, I might have forgiven the patron for this sleight of hand, but it is the first of several moves that make the meal slightly uncomfortable.

I am in Wiltshire for a meal to celebrate several birthdays – mine, my father's and my son's. Turns out it's quite tricky to find a good restaurant in this neck of the woods on a Saturday night in June that's not been taken over for a wedding. But I'm told by my relatives down the M4 corridor that the George & Dragon has a good reputation – particularly for fish, which the website boasts is brought in every day from Cornish fishing boats.

Our party of six hungry Markwells arrives at 6.30pm – this, I figure, makes life easier for us and the kitchen. (I've never understood the logic of making young children sit quietly in restaurants late in the evening. You wouldn't call them to the table at home then make them wait around for 40 minutes before the food shows up, would you?) Early arrival should mean an energetic chef and sprightly serving staff. We shall see.

The day's specials are chalked up. Dover and lemon sole, lobster, and local crayfish sound promising. That bread – six standard-issue rolls smeared with garlic butter or mustard – arrives while we're still deciding whether Dover sole at £27.50 represents good value (Mr M senior has a good appetite).

The second gaffe of the night arrives with his starter, in fact. A potted-crab dish comes with a giant gobbet of unadvertised and unwanted cheese on top. That he only eats cheese "once or twice a year" is a family tradition, and from his expression, he didn't want this to be one of those occasions. Ah well, the crab underneath is deemed very tasty; as are the puce, perky crayfish, which my mother can't quite comprehend have been caught in the nearby River Kennet.

A long wait for our main courses ensues. We exhaust who's been up to what and resort – as families do – to chatting to our neighbours, a mother and daughter visiting from Canada. What they make of this rustic pub room with city prices is anyone's guess.

Finally, more food. I am so proud that my son has ordered halibut with crab risotto (critic in training, clearly) that it's beyond dismaying that the dish before him is a heap of risotto with no discernible fish. Where's the halibut? "Oh, it's underneath," the patron answers loftily. It is not. So did he write the order down wrong, or not check the food at the pass? Pretty shabby, either way, and there's no apology forthcoming.

Scallop and black-pudding salad (£23), meanwhile, is a pleasing combination and if the monkfish wrapped in Parma ham (£16.50) is a little less generous and crisp than I'd imagined, it goes down just fine. The lemon and Dover sole, one for each parent, is the star of the show – fresh and excellently prepared, although it has been taken off the bone and Mrs M senior wishes she had either been offered the choice.

The plus and minus columns of this meal are each filling up. Great fish, but chips that are served in a sauté pan – a misleading affectation if ever I saw one – and sauté potatoes which are a little flabby for this early in service.

The George & Dragon redeems itself with wonderful home-made ice-creams, a humungous raspberry roulade (with extra cream, oh heavens) and a vast cloud of Eton mess (£6 each).

So the bill, for four adults, two children, a bottle and two glasses of wine, two pints and some tap water, comes in at £275, which is steep, I think. I don't subscribe to the view that one should expect cheaper prices out of London – great produce and great cooking is worth paying for wherever you are – but charging £7.50 for bread and £12 for vegetables which are described as included on the menu is galling.

Four of us hotfoot it back up the M4. The others, less than two miles away and potential regulars, won't be coming back – which, for a tucked-away gastropub in these times, is something the George & Dragon should give serious thought to.

11/20

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

The George & Dragon, High Street, Rowde, Devizes, Wiltshire, tel: 01380 723 053 Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat; dinner Sun. £275 for dinner for six

More fishy gastropubs

The Swan Inn

Macclesfield Road, Kettleshulme, Derbyshire, tel: 01663 732 943

A gastronomic haven in the Peak District, this 15th-century inn attracts consistent praise for wonderful food, especially its fish

Plockton Inn

Innes Street, Plockton, Ross-Shire, tel: 01599 544 222

An inn (with its own smokery) that takes fish straight from the sea to the plate (and has the best prawns anywhere, too)

The Sportsman

Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent, tel: 01227 273 370

Located on the salt marshes outside the town, this now-famous gastropub (of 10 years standing) is pretty much faultless – a relaxing place where the fish-based cuisine is simply superb

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010'. www.hardens.com

Suggested Topics
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?