With the recent departure of Head Chef John Cook from The Oak Bank hotel in Grasmere the position has now been refilled by a very exciting new youngster in town. Darren Comish has recently moved into the kitchen and brought some wonderful knowledge and exciting new ideas with him to move the Oak bank onwards and upwards on our Lake district culinary ladder.
Chef Darren comes with a rather interesting C.V and joins Oak Bank from time in the kichens of Michael Wignall at the Devonshire Arms , Bolton Abbey. Darren also done stages at Tom Aitkens in London.Following an apprenticeship in Linthwaite house, Windermere Darren worked as Head chef at Miller Howe also in Windermere. I can totally level with Hotel owner Simon Woods excitement here , i would feel the same way , he`s got something to keep him awake at night with the opportunities that lay ahead for Oak bank dining.
So the word on the culinary grapevine filtered through to me and in no time at all and i made the 1 hour drive through to the beautiful village of Grasmere for a friday lunch to see what Chef Darren was all about. It was a gorgeous sunny day , the hotel was full for the weekend and everyone was on packed lunches and out making the most of the Lakeland fells.
The village of Grasmere is surrounded by mountains and nature trails so its a perfect central hub for explorers and a very romantic little village for a family or lovers getaway.For a first time trip to Cumbria you couldn`t get a much better location for an intro into Cumbrian life.
As i was just saying , everyone was out with their little packed lunches exploring and making the most of the sunshine.That also meant that i had the dining room to myself…and all of the chef to lil ole me…..so let`s get it on.
First up was a couple of Amuse Bouche. A finger of Croque monsieur and a small tartlet containing a Mushroom duxelle topped with a soft boiled Quails egg and Hollendaise.
Freshly baked selection of Oak bank breads ( White , Brown , Cheese and Onion and Raisin , Walnut and Treacle ) all well made and perfectly seasoned. Seaweed , Sea salt and Lemon & Herb butters accompanied the Breads.
The first starter was a Tian of local Rabbit set in a Rabbit Consomme. This came with Truffle Marshmallow ( different and unusually pleasing ) , Pickled mushrooms and Fig.
The Salmon was house cured and accompanied by a spiced Tuna loin , Lemongrass , Melon and Oyster beignet.
Squab Pigeon beautifully presented , Pork Belly , Foie gras , Quail Egg and Onion puree.This one hit the spot for me. Robust flavours and reductions paired with my favourite ingredient…Foie Gras , Loved it.
Turbot with Razor ( Spoots ) and Surf Clams , Herb gnocchi , Fennel , Osso Bucco , Chicken wing. I enjoyed this dish but in my eyes it need a bit of attention and refinement….it was a dish of ” work in progress”. The Turbot needed more cooking time to crisp one side up a little more , The Oxtail was nice and tender but would have been dramatically improved by the addition of a reduction of cooking juices added to boost the flavours. The chicken only served to confuse and shouldn`t have been there , it didnt add to the dish at all. Turbot , Oxtail and seafood accompaniments with a nice robust sauce and it would have been a beautiful main course dish.
Saddle of Roe Deer…..Ahhhhhhh , i didnt even need to move my jaw as this one just melted in the mouth. A selection of Heritage Carrots and root vegetables ( tasting of vegetables ), creamed Savoy Cabbage , a Red Wine reduction……..Now this is classic old school , core skills and cooked very proficiently by a SQEP …..in essence a Suitably Qualified and Experienced Person. ( its one of our Sellafield buzz words ). Nothing could improve on this classic plate of food for me.It simply ticked every box.
Tiramisu , a pleasant pre dessert consisting of an Espresso Coffee Parfait , Coffee Mousse , Honey ice cream and a Milk foam.
The lunch finished off in the garden with a beautiful midsummer dessert of Lemon meringue tart , Raspberry sorbet , Gel and Jelly. Marshmallow and Raspberry Macaron.
Lemon and Raspberries…………Do i really need to go any further ? It tasted exactly as it looked. It will be interesting to see where Oak bank goes with the arrival of Darren Comish. The hotel is a friendly little place and the owners seem totally dedicated to keeping the guests pampered and happy. The food at Oak bank is certainly worth a trip there to sample the goods and i`ll certainly look forward to a return meal.In the meantime i`ll be watching with interest.
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