According to my Sat Nav the journey through the lakes from Whitehaven to Windermere should have only taken me just over an hour, but thanks to the assortment of various `sunday` and `pointing at mountain` 20 mph road users it took me almost 2 head banging hours to reach my destination.The wonderful Gilpin Lodge country house hotel just outside of Windermere , right in the heart of our beautiful English national park.By the time i arrived i was screaming for an alcoholic soother and a beautiful glass of peachy Pinot blanc had my heart rate back to normal and now, finally i could relax in the stunning Gilpin lounge while i perused the Sunday lunch menu over a lovely selection of classic canapes.
Gilpin lodge country house hotel was originally built in 1901, of Georgian design and extensively refurbished in 2009 by the Cunliffe family.It has retained it’s historic characteristics but also has its modern touches of interior design blending old and new to give a timeless balance.Old and new blend together and one can wander from room to room, from living room big log fires and huge sofas and straight into the bright red, glass and mirrored ultra trendy cocktail bars with the very latest city centre interior design layout….it`s great and very much a unique one off place, there really is no where quite like it that i`ve seen before. Anyone looking for a country escape and that special `home from home` feel will definitely be on to a winner here.The hotel guests were just treating it like their own place and sitting relaxed, shoes off , laughing , chatting and taking photos of one and other as they awaited their call for Sunday roast.It was nice to watch people totally chilled out and making the most of their marvellous surroundings.Personally i myself have never felt this ambience in a restaurant before , immediately being made to feel part of the family and treated with warmth and care, something that`s sadly missing these days in the restaurant world.The family and team of 50 staff have been voted best small hotel in the national tourism awards held by Visit England in April 2010. This follows winning the Cumbria Tourism awards in April 2009, and the North-West England Tourism awards in November 2009.Entries into the Good food guide and guide Michen also put Gilpin firmly on the foodie map as a destination restaurant.
Chef Russell Plowman joined Gilpin in 2008 having trained for three years under Alain Roux at the 3 Michelin star Waterside Inn at Bray.This was followed by another 3 years at the 1 Michelin star L’Orlotan under Alan
Murchison.Russell has retained Gilpins 3 AA rosettes, held since 1997, and their rating of 6 in the Good Food Guide, held since 2005. Russell also recently acheived a mark of 8 out of 10 the Telegraph.The menus offered plenty of choice on each course seeing as we were only there for Sunday lunch, so that was really generous to be offered such a good selection at lunchtime service.The thing that jumped out at me straight away was that the choice of dish on our £35 lunch menu was also on the a la carte menu for dinner the very same evening.There was no sign at all of scrimping with ingredients , another reason why Gilpin lodge offers tremendous value for money.So 3 courses plus appetiser was the selection on offer at sunday lunchtime.
I was a little surprised to see a lack of local produce on the menus at this point, bearing in mind that the lake district is firmly on the map of good food destinations nowadays, and it also has a huge network of artisan food producers in the region.We have everything a chef could ever dream of in Cumbria , Wild fish and shellfish to rival Scotlands west coast finest.Amazing game and meat producers, artisan cheesemakers etc etc.The menu would definitely benefit from a little more thought put into it and some clever local sourcing to bring it well into line with the top level competitors in the region.Why go to Cornwall for seabass when we have the finest in our Solway estuaries.Irish sea scallops that are landed in Whitehaven are as sweet as the ones from the kyles of Lochalsh., Muncaster crab, Rabbit from Levens , Salt marsh lamb from Holker hall …the list goes on and on….We even have Jeffersons “Whitehaven” rum as well.
Another thing that jumped right out at me on the journey to Windermere was the absolute abundance of produce from the hedgerow, it was a foragers dreamworld.This continued right up to the gates of Gilpin lodge and then after that the gardens were teeming with fresh herbs….with virtually nothing being used on the menu.Im more than sure that theres a plentiful supply of local pensioners , ramblers and foragers willing to drop baskets of hedgerow and woodland produce off for chef a couple of times a week, infact truth of the matter is that they dont even need to do that , theres huge amounts of wild garlic , hawthorn blossom , broom , fat hen , ground elder, wood sorrel , field sorrel filling every wood and hedgrow at the moment , its a forager…and chefs dream larder right now….and on the doorstep of the restaurant. I think if i were chef i`d be sending the boys out every morning with a basket.
Anyway , on with the food. Bread arrived when we were seated at the table.Not a great choice but it was freshly baked and had a good crust to it. Rosemary , Cheese and Granary breads were offered.I asked if there was any white and a couple of minutes later one of the girls returned with 3 slices of white loaf….well i did get what i had asked for. The fantastic selection of fresh Gilpin garden herbs and hedgrow herbs could be used straight away here to make interesting bread combinations , I`d be straight on to that one given the chance.
First courses arrived in style , very pleasing to the eye and making the most of seasonality. `Loch Duart` organic Salmon , with seaweed , cauliflower and horseradish cream.Fresh flavours , everything worked well together and absolutely fresh as a daisy.My partner chose the `Cheshire` Asparagus with poached hens egg and sauce Mousseline…with a tiny morel mushroom as an added treat.
Two fantastic , simple starters paved the way for our main courses. The duck was sent out accurately cooked and perfectly pink , tender and caramelised on the skin side. The duck sauce was well reduced and served seperately , there was more sauce than i could use.Everything worked well together , the duck , faggot , bubble n squeak were a nicely balanced rich combination of flavours.I was served a seperate dish of seasonal vegetables all fresh and cooked al dente ( carrots , broccoli , fine beans ). My partners Cod was golden on the flesh side and barely cooked and moist in the middle , pairing up perfectly with the Irish champ potatoes and lightsauce….good portion sizes also.
Main course plates away and at this point i would have killed for some cheese, yet at the same time i`m an absolute sweet toothed pudding fiend as well.My partner and i both agreed to get a cheese plate for one , share it and then have a pudding off the set menu.I called one of the staff over and asked if it would be possible to have a selection of cheese before our pudding.I was informed that i could have cheese `but only to replace a pudding`.I said that i was more than happy to pay for the cheese as an extra course at whatever the price would be but was then told politely `sorry but that isnt possible`. Shame , as most places i`ve ever been to offer cheese as a supplementary extra..but not here.Not to worry , our favourites were only minutes away…..puddings. I decided to go for the Malibu / coconut panna cotta with rum granita.My partner chose the Tonka bean creme brulee with shortbread and passionfruit ice cream…both lovely puddings….mine looked stunning.I love food that`s visually pleasing to the eye and looks like someone in the klitchen has gone to a lot of effort. This one looked amazing , Oven dried pineapple sunflowers ,a delicately flavoured coconut panna cotta , Rum granita and oven roasted and caramelised pineapple cubes.Little shoots of young coriander finished it all off perfectly…top marks for this wonderful creation. My partners Tonka bean creme brulee was nicely cooked and delectably rich and creamy.Little shortbread biscuits and a soft velvety home made ice cream made this simple dessert into a dreamy one to eat with eyes closed.
Coffee was served back in the lounge to enable us to slither into a kind of `sit in silence` horizontal position on the huge soft armchairs , the food is pretty rich at Gilpin…i love it that way but boy does it cause sleepy feelings .Petits fours were served with the coffee (£4.50 ).Blackcurrant jellies , Mint chocolate truffle and Pistachio sponge , pleasant to eat but a little more effort needed from the pastry section here to bring the sweet treats into line with the fantastic desserts they`re sending out.
All in all , a very enjoyable and relaxing sunday lunch in a wonderful country house retreat.We will definitely
return to sample the chef at his best and try the dinner menu next time.Long may it all last.
Negatives – Limited use and sourcing of local produce.
No option to have cheese as an extra course Update – ( Cheese selection is now available as an extra course ) Petits fours need brought into line with the wonderful puddings.
Positives – Value for money , one of the very best places in the lakes for quality food and cooking at the price.
Relaxed family atmosphere , made to feel totally at home, good wine selection to suit all price ranges.
Photos from a previous lunch visit can be seen by clicking this LINK
To visit the Gilpin Lodge website , please click HERE