The George and Dragon with The Lowthers , Penrith.

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The George and Dragon is another one of those little ” tucked away diamonds ” i keep going on about. A comforting weekend escape on the verges of the Lake District within a ten minute drive from the M6 motorway .Once you`re through the door then you`ll be shutting yourselves away from the outside world and welcoming the roaring log fires , traditional Ales, some wonderful well priced pub food and good ole friendly Cumbrian hospitality.

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The G&D owners, Charles and Juno ( The Queen of Heaven ) are a young couple who go by a name very well known to the area – Lowther.The Lowther family are synonymous with the region and have been associated with the estates around Penrith and beyond since 1283….a bloody long time.Politics, fighting off the Tartan armies ,Poetry and the Arts have all been associated with The Lowthers over the years but my blog isn`t one of an historical nature. There`s lots of information on anything you want to know about the family by simply visiting Google so just have a wee look and you shall find.

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Current Chef at the George and Dragon is Ian Jackson , formerly of Sharrow Bay and Rampsbeck country house hotel…..enough said , the food should be spot on. Chef wasn`t in place while i was there so the food pics i`ve taken aren`t a reflection on Chef Jacksons cuisine.

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So as far as the Lowthers latest projects go then The George and Dragon and Askham hall are the foodie parts of their current enterprises. The philosophy behind the pub is to serve up as much locally sourced food as they can manage and so local Farmers , fishermen , hunters and foragers are employed to supply the freshest and most natural ingredients as possible. Quite a lot of the produce comes from the gardens of Askham hall which has been managed to feed the Lowthers for the last 800 years. The whole set up….Pub , gardens , woods and country house are literally slap bang in the middle of a world of Greenery , woodland , rivers and mountains so as far as food from nature to plate is concerned then they`ve hit the jackpot here.

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I drove the 10 minutes from the Lowthers pub and over to Askham hall ( Charles Lowther grew up here ), it`s just stunning , peaceful and akin to driving through a nature reserve .If anyone remembers Lowther wildlife park in years gone by then you`ll know what i mean. Nowadays Im just talking Deer , Pheasants , squirrels, rabbits and birds so you`ll be pretty safe to get out of your cars and walk freely as you`re in no danger of getting your head ripped apart by a Baboon any more.

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Askham hall and gardens are open to the public , there`s a little Kitchen garden cafe on the premises and it`s definitely worth a look inside as the stonework and woodwork remain totally intact from years gone by. There`s an awful lot of potential ( with the right Chef ) to develop this part of the business into something pretty special so i will watch with Hawk like eyes on this one and fingers crossed we`ll have another high end restaurant on the Cumbrian culinary map. They already have the property , they`ve got the produce knocking at the door to get in , they`ve got an unbelievable source of wild food waiting to be foraged. All that`s needed is a Chef with a good bit of vision and they`ll crack the Nut.

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Quite a lot of you will know this “old chap” ( sorry mate ). For those who don`t , his name is Steven Doherty, food God and legendery ex Head chef from Albert Roux`s Le Gavroche in Mayfair , London.. Old school cuisine at its very finest and what Steven doesn`t know about food probably isnt worth knowing. In 1985 Steven was the very first British Chef to become the Head chef of a “3 star” Michelin restaurant and took over the reins for 5 years running the kitchens of the `flagship` of The Roux empire.

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Steven moved to Cumbria and long story short , settled into the running of the Brown horse in Winster ( British pub of the year ) and then the Punchbowl in Windermere.He`s now running Lakeland Ltd “first floor” cafe in Windermere and has just written his first book “Living over the Shop“. Stevens vast experience puts him in a wonderful position to offer his services as a consultant to the hospitality industry and during my visit to the George and Dragon , Steven was busy in the kitchens mentoring and casting a critical eye over operations backstage. C`mon , in all honesty could we ask for any more in Cumbria ?…. The Head Chef from Le Gavroche conducting the orchestra, I`m well impressed.

STOP PRESS for the very good news to reach me. Steven has sourced and recruited a new Head chef for Askham Hall `Richard Swale`. Together they will be the culinary masterminds of the cuisine which will be created and served there.I`m excited already…Wait for this…. Richards pedigree , NOMA ( Worlds best restaurant ) and John Burton Race…….Well Richard , not much pressure on you there mate. What a fantastic team , bring it on gents.

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