IT has not been an easy winter for many in the Lake District. The worst floods in living memory turned life upside down, forcing many residents from their homes and some businesses to shut up shop.
But they are a hardy bunch in Cumbria, with a real sense of community spirit – and the good news is this stunning area of Britain which draws visitors from around the world is open for business.
The natural beauty of the area has long made it a magnet for those who enjoy the great outdoors – be it on two feet or two wheels on land, or under sail or paddle on the water.
It is probably fair to say that few would immediately think of the area as a first choice foodie destination. If that is the case then a stay at The Waterhead in Ambleside – a four star boutique hotel among a select offering from the English Lakes group – will soon change minds.
It sits at the north end of Lake Windermere and boasts a view to rival any in the country.
Little more than a three hour drive from the Midlands – straight up the M6 – The Waterhead is within easy reach for a weekend break, or if you’re lucky, and even longer stay.
Relaxation is made easy at The Waterhead, and the main reason for that is attention to detail. Nothing has been left to chance. There appears nothing that hasn’t been thought of – from the placing of hooks to hang a coat – something so simple yet many hotels fail – to locally sourced biscuits (from nearby Grasmere, and to borrow from the beer ad ‘probably the best ginger biscuits in the word). The beds are wonderfully comfortable and huge, and contemporary bathrooms include all mod cons.
Superb as the rooms are, a visit to The Waterhead without dining in the restaurant would be a insult to yourself. The hotel has established an enviable culinary reputation, and new head chef Nick Martin is only set to enhance that reputation.
Award-winning Nick brings over 30 years experience to the shore side modern yet relaxed dining room, having worked with notable names such as Jean Christophe Novelli and Keith Floyd.
Contemporary British with a focus on the best local ingredients with some inspired and often surprising accompaniments – for starters try Cumbrian game and pistachio terrine, with ‘Hawkshead Relish’ fig and date chutney, homemade ‘Mad Pig’ ale bread, or Cartmel Valley smoked duck breast, with soused vegetables, bitter leaves, and pomegranate syrup. Follow with pan roasted belly of Cumbrian pork with sage and onion mash, white onion sauce, apple and black pudding boudin, or roast chump of Cumbrian lamb with Dauphinoise potatoes, kale, roasted roots, redcurrant jus. There is also an excellent selection for fish lovers – salmon, sea bass, tuna and a catch of the day – together with a range of steaks.
Deserts range from a stunning vanilla crème brûlée to a cheese board of epic proportions.
The wine list is well-chosen and reassuring unpretentious.
If you can drag yourself away from The Waterhead’s restaurant, then sister hotel Low Wood Bay, just a mile down the road, offers equally fine dining in a grand yet welcoming panelled dining room complete with large Gustav Klimt paintings.
Again the best local ingredients are employed for starters such as pan fried duck egg with black pudding soldiers, curried cauliflower and cider, and mains such as cured sea trout fillet with crab sauce and sea vegetables and Anna potatoes.
An inventive selection of dishes are complimented by some hearty fare in a selection from the grill, and ‘Best of British dishes’ – which include steak and kidney pudding with chunky chips (and they really are chunky), John Stott’s local duck and damson sausage with mash, and the ever-popular fish and chips – the fresh catch in crispy batter – with homemade mushy peas
Like The Waterhead, there is a good offering of desserts for those who can manage one, and again, the wine selection is select and not intimidating.
Feeling guilty after some fine dining, then guests at The Waterhead get free use of the excellent leisure facilities at Low Wood Bay, which include pool, sauna, gym, and a range of beauty treatments are also available.
Visit englishlakes.co.uk for further details.