At the time of writing Lake road kitchen has only been open for 20 weeks and finally i got around to eating dinner there last weekend. The tom tom drums were beating out the message within days of the restaurant opening but i held out for weeks waiting for them to settle in and start doing lunches but for some reason this never happened. The only reason that i wanted to dine there for lunch was to photograph the food in daylight as i`m pretty OCD when it comes to that. Lunches weren`t happening ( yet ) so i booked in for dinner.Food choices at LRK are currently a` la carte with around 4 very reasonably priced choices on each course. When i arrived at the restaurant i was offered the alc menu but also informed that there was a few specials available and that chef could put me a little tasting menu together. I noticed that another table also had a similar dining experience so it`s definitely worth asking during booking if a multi course appeals to you.
So the restaurant is very young , similar to the team running the place. The service is relaxed , the chefs are relaxed and share big smiles and foodie banter with the diners – I really like that connection. Front of house staff led by George Norrie are extremely knowledgeable and well mannered. Its all about the food here at Lake road kitchen so expect big and detailed technical descriptions of each dish, its origins and cooking methods.Personally i like that.
The owner and Chef is James Cross (32) he`s just one amazing guy with a CV to die for. Rene Redzepi`s 2 Michelin starred “Noma” in Copenhagen ( world number 1 ) , Thomas Kellers 3 Michelin starred “Per Se” in New York ( world number 30 ) and Heinz Becks 3 Michelin starred “La Pergola “ in Rome…..Enough said. Cumbria is now extremely blessed to have James and the team setting up business here.I`m extremely excited for one and have a great feeling that this is going to be a very big hitter for the Cumbrian restaurant scene. Once the critics and the guides get hold of this one then i personally feel that it`s all going to take off real fast.
So on with the meal. The restaurant is situated on Lake road in Ambleside and seats 27 (i think). It`s a small place with an open kitchen and all dressed out in rough cut timber. The kitchen itself is totally high tec and the fitting out price would bring a normal guy to tears. There`s no gimmicks in the cooking style here. Its Northern European food with a big accent on using the very best of Cumbrian sourced produce where possible. There`s no Espumas , Gels , foams or novelties that are meaningless on the plate. All you`ll find here is extreme attention to cooking the very best food to the highest standards possible , it`s all about taste and flavours. The chefs daily routine starts off every morning with a forage for Cumbrian wild ingredients.These treasures are then brought back to the restaurant for inclusion on to the days menus. This is also the main reason why Lake road kitchen doesn`t open for lunch ( yet ). The kitchen team of 3 then spend the rest of the day prepping the dinner menu which begins at 6.30. My meal started at 6.30 and i was getting back into my car at 12.00 so be prepared for an evening of entertainment. I`m sure if you`re around at the end of service then you`ll also be lucky enough to get a look behind the scenes…..its an education in itself.
The Bread ….Ohhh the Bread. It`s so amazing here. I`ll go as far to say that along with Heston Blumenthals Bread at the Fat Duck James Cross makes the best Bread i`ve ever tasted in any restaurant or bakery anywhere in the World. It smells amazing , looks amazing and has the texture of freshly made Crumpets inside , along with a dark smokey brown crisp outer crust. James explained that he treats the Bread just like a baby and it gets loving attention every 45 minutes on the dot thanks to a bleeper system. I can`t remember the ins and outs of the production process but the Bread is made using the Sourdough technique and a Motherculture is constantly bubbling away providing the starter for every new batch. The dough was extremely wet when i seen it during one of its 45 minute “turns” and that was exactly the texture of the dough that went into the Bannetons for baking in the steam oven. Home made Virgin Butter and melting Bone Marrow came as accompaniments to James`s wonderful creation. Worth a trip to the restaurant just for this Bread experience.
Buttermilk Fried Guinea Hen , Caesar sauce and Thyme oil. – A foodies refined version of `Popcorn Chicken`. Moist and meltingly tender Guinea Hen pieces cooked in Buttermilk in a soft crumb coating.
Bone marrow for the Bread – Just melted in the mouth and would have been even better with a whisp of wood smoke as a background flavour.
Slow cooked Chickens foot with Pine and White Miso – Mmmnnnn….so the jury is out on this one. The Chef was very brave to offer this on the menu and i didn`t hesitate to get stuck straight into it. I`m already used to chewing on these with a beer and a sweet chilli dip in Thailand so it was second nature for me. Bones , gristle , skin and cartilage . I ate the lot like a mad dog. My son laughed … ” Ermmmm dad , what do i do ? ” We both scoffed and giggled , as you`re meant to do….all in the name of fun and happy eating. A Chickens foot holds no culinary value whether it`s cooked for 4 minutes in deep fat or 40 hours sous vide but it gets the diner talking , smiling and it`s all exciting stuff and part of the overall experience.
Norwegian Salmon , Raw and Cured Tartare , Wood Sorrel , Rye crumb – Gently cured and paired up with the Lemony wild woodland Sorrel. Refreshing and delicate flavours.
Carrots with Truffle. – One of the highlights of my meal. At the end of the day ” Its a Carrot ” but this is the magic you can create with it. Raw Organic Carrots , Pickled , cooked in Butter and enhanced with the addition of fresh Truffle slices , Buckwheat and Sheeps milk Yoghurt. …Wonderful dish.
Slow cooked Octopus tentacles – Cooked gently for 48 hours and then finished off on the grill to caramelise the exterior. Lots of full flavoured smokey goodness here with Peppery Nasturtiums, fermented wild Garlic , Yoghurt, and pickled Spruce tips to add a little something different.
Raw “Roast” Beef and Squash with Scurvy grass. – A dish in progress. I enjoyed it and the Beef was as fresh as a Daisy. The dish over all was very simple in its execution and the subtle flavours were allowed to shine through.Personally i was looking for that little something to bring the plate alive….. Some kind of flavoured oil for example. Something with smokiness infused into it ( as you can tell by now , i love the smell and taste of smoke )
Charred Onion petals , Onion broth , Thyme and 3 year old Comte – Simple use of basic ingredients and proof that they can be made into something very special. It reminded me of Mikael Ericsson at Hedone and his signature dish of Cervennes Onion with Pears. ( see here )
Ross-shire Scallop Mornay with Beach plants. ….Ohhhh my goodness….WOW. This was a taste sensation and a `close your eyes` moment. A little enhancement of a classic combo, Griddled Scallop glazed with Sauce Mornay. Finished off with various fresh and pickled Sea herbs and grasses.
The last Cep of the season , roasted and served with Pumpkin puree , Pork reduction , Poached Egg and Black Truffles. – I was a lucky guy tonight. For starters the Truffle man had been at lunchtime with 3 fresh Truffles….Great timing. Secondly Chef had been out foraging that morning and had captured the last Cep of the season , which had my name all over it. So in a nutshell just feast your eyes on this lot below.
The Cep had been cut in half , scored and then cooked and bathed in Butter until done,…cooked gently, lovingly and slowly until caramelised , the texture was amazing. This was then plated up with a croute topped with a soft poached Duck Egg then crowned with Black truffle. Then just to elevate the single mind blowing orgasm to a multiple one it was then napped with a sticky Pork reduction and a creamy Pumpkin puree. I would go back today for another shot at this one….BUT , it was a `one off`. I turned up at the right place and at the right time and found my treasure….what a blessed boy i am.
Aged Saddleback Pork , Fennel , Herb dumplings , Truffle. – The Pork was presented at the table then taken away to relax under the lights. The Pork was Lake district Saddleback roasted and cooked perfectly tender. Not a great deal of flavour from the Pork itself but it went well with the other ingredients as a whole. The Truffle , im guessing was Tuber Aestivum ( summer truffle ) and had little flavour but a very delicate scent which didn`t overpower the Pork.
Bitter Caramel flan , Brown Butter Granola , Sorrel and Blackberries in Liqueur. – I love my desserts with heartfelt passion and so this one pleased me no end. A deeply dark almost burned Caramel , creamy Custard , boozy Blackites ( Blackberries ) in creme de Mure and the acidic tang of wild baby Sheep Sorrel leaves.
Apple Tart , Creme fraiche , Calvados sauce. – I was rather surprised when this one landed on the table. Surprised because it was totally normal. A classical dessert “Fine Apple tart” with Caramel on crisp puff pastry….beautiful. Chef James had learned to make this one years ago when he first set out on his culinary journey . As a dish carrying happy memories it has now made it on to the menu of Lake road kitchen. I have a sweet tooth and it hit the right notes perfectly.
Rye cracker with Cheese. – By now i was totally overfilled and when this landed on the table i really didnt want to upset anyone and so i had no choice but to oblige. Simple Scandanavian crackers with 3 perfectly matured Cheeses.
Ok…. to sum Lake road kitchen up. Its new and just getting off the ground so please please go and support this new venture and give this young team the start they so deserve. The skills and attention to detail here are World class and for two chefs in the kitchen cooking to this standard for a full restaurant its astounding. I can`t imagine what it would be like with a full team behind the stoves , i`ll dream about that one. Fingers crossed they`ll be doing lunches once they find their feet and also providing a permanent Tasting menu. Tiny tweaks are needed here and there and no doubt they`ll fall into place as this young restaurant progresses. At this current moment in time its a Gnats whisker off perfection on a plate with only Simon Rogans Lenclume offering any kind of similar quality cuisine in Cumbria
Note – Beef. Chef took me through the ageing process of his Beef striploins and the meticulous brining , drying and hanging required to produce top quality meat. I`ve never experienced good Beef and apparently “125” day old properly matured Beef is the best in the business. James even hinted to me that his Beef might be amongst the best in the UK. but the only way to prove that is in the tasting. I`ll be back for the Beef experience in the next few weeks so watch out for the update on Cumbriafoodie.
To view all of the photos from dinner then please CLICK HERE.
To visit Lake road kitchen website please CLICK HERE
To follow Lake road kitchen on Twitter then please CLICK HERE
Apple & Pine shoot juice , nice and refreshing.