I’m an Australian-born gal originally but at the tender age of 18 I jumped on a plane and jetted off to the other side of the world for a summer sojourn around Europe before heading back home to complete my studies. Little did I know how much I was going to fall for the continent and, eight years on, I’m still here and stuffing my face with all of the Old-World delicacies that I can get my teeth into. My poor mother, however, eagerly (I imagine) awaiting the return of her youngest, would only receive intermittent emails every few months telling her that I’ve yet again delayed my return. So after my 24th ‘no show’, Roz (mum) decided to exercise a bit of wanderlust herself and jumped on a plane to join me on a culinary tour of the Lake District. And that is how we came to be sat at the enviable window seat table, in the esteemed restaurant of the boutique hotel, Holbeck Ghyll.
What started out as a hunting lodge for Lord Lonsdale and his party crew has over the years been transformed into one of the premier luxury accommodations in the Lake District, and a highly acclaimed, destination-dining restaurant in its own right. The restaurant itself is dripping in old boy charm, with an emphasis on understated furnishings, natural wood and antique upholstery. The dimmed lighting creates a forgiving atmosphere for any fatigued faces, withered after a day of hiking the mountainous surroundings, and the cosy tables add an air of romance for any weekend lovers.
Anyway, let’s talk canapés. To start, we’re treated with a platter of fluffy-as-a-cloud quiche lorraines accompanied by decadent, truffled-egg profiteroles. Next comes a set of gazpacho amuse-bouches, which are light, zesty and uncharacteristically creamy. The peeled plum tomato, miniature mozzarella and micro basil act as a playful visual aid to ensure that you don’t forget what you’re eating.
To wet our whistles, our erudite sommelier offers us a bottle of Carignan to accompany our dinner. The flavours are big, bold and juicy, but, being low in tannins, the tasty red manages to match nearly every dish that we order without overpowering the subtle French flavours.
For starters, maman opts for the goats’ cheese with pickled vegetables, which is light, tangy and artfully presented. My chicken terrine with beetroot mousse and pâté cigar is rich, delicately flavoured and full of contrasting textures that keep every bite interesting.
Moving on to the mains, my exceptionally tender beef fillet with ox cheek tortellini, broccoli and playful onion rings steals the show, as every mouthful is more moreish than the last. however, Rosalind’s juicy and lightly salted lamb cutlet with crisp asparagus, crunchy potato and flavoursome terrine comes in at a close second.
As I’m a greedy bugger and know that Roz doesn’t like figs and only has disdain for liquorice, I choose the fig tatin with anise ice cream for dessert, banking on the fact that mum won’t touch my dish, but her maternal instincts will force her to share her cheese board with me. Ha, it worked. The pastry of my Tatin is delicately layered and excitingly crunchy, whilst the warm fig filling and chilly ice cream fight it out weather-wise in my mouth.
For the cheese round, we’re treated to a tawny Port and a tale of when my mother and grandmother, then living in Sydney, used to buy half-wheels of Stilton and name them Stanley. They were apparently very fond of their many Stanleys, however, this didn’t stop them from mercilessly chowing down on their soft flesh with a daily sundowner. Though I won’t go as far as to name my prey, the Stilton, Tomme Brûlée and Époisses that we enjoy this evening, are delicious.
Full-to-the-boots and feeling very merry from our Carignan, we head back to our suite and enjoy a complimentary digestif of homemade Damson gin to tie off our evening. Mum – it’s been grand.
Holbeck Ghyll Restaurant, Holbeck Lane, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1LU, England
Tel: +44 (0)1539 432 375
The restaurant is located in Holbeck Ghyll Hotel overlooking Lake Windermere and is easily accessible by car. Stay on the A591 past Windermere and continue until you reach Holbeck Lane. Turn right and follow signs to the hotel. Lunch is served from midday to 2:00pm and Dinner is from 6:30 to 10:00pm. Parking is available for guests and diners.
Type of Restaurant: 3 AA Rosette Modern British Fine Dining Restaurant
Insider Tip: Ask for a table by the window, to enjoy the fantastic views across Lake Windermere and the Central Fells.
Price Band: Mid-priced
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Melanie Chenoweth is a London based, freelance food writer and photographer. If you can eat it, she’ll snap it. Then eat it. Then write about it.
Photographs courtesy of Holbeck Ghyll