THE WILD Boar Inn has a reputation which stretches way beyond the borders of its stunning Lake District setting – just check Jamie Oliver’s website.
Jim Tanfield – who edits the celebrity chef’s website – described the Wild Boar as “ a real foodie retreat” during a recent stay, and we discovered why during a delightful and enlightening weekend.
Located just a couple of miles from Lake Windermere, this superb 34-room traditional hotel set in the South Lakes countryside, is one of five in the region run by the English Lakes group, whose attention to detail from check in to check out is second to none.
From the outside, The Wild Boar looks like many charming former coaching inns – but how many can boast their own on-site smokehouse and micro brewery. It is one of the reasons why The Wild Boar is such a draw for food and drink lovers.
The hotel also has a reputation for whisky. Regulars can even buy a bottle and take a dram every time they visit. On our first night we attended a special Whisky Evening, hosted by James Buntin, brand ambassador for Banffshire distillery Balvenie – the only distillery in the world which can claim to make handcrafted whisky from start to finish.
Mr Buntin is a natural raconteur, and a sold out restaurant enjoyed a fine four course dinner with a whisky from the Balvenie range ahead of each, the merits and characteristics of which Mr Buntin explained with true passion, and humour.
The inventive menu included some big flavours to match the whiskies – chilli and garlic razor clams, smoked pigeon breast, grilled venison steak, served with a wonderful smoked black pudding croquette, and a rich dark chocolate and ginger mousse to finish.
Mr Buntin even managed to change the minds of long-time whisky-lovers convinced water had no place in their favourite tipple of just what a couple of drops could do to enhance the flavour.
With Prosecco and nibbles – including home smoked pigs in blankets and pork crackling sticks – to start things off, the evening at £40 a head offered incredible value.
Whisky is a social drink, and as such is naturally entwined with memories. There is no doubt this wonderful evening will stay in the memory of all who attended for a long time.
The dining room, complete with open kitchen, has a warm old world charm – though a little ducking needs to be done by taller diners – and the following evening we had the chance to experience a standard dining experience. In a nutshell – good honest cooking with no pretension, using the finest local and seasonal ingredients.
I started with the superb in-house smoked black pudding scotch egg, while the good lady went for a wholesome full flavour mushroom soup.
Mains for myself was a perfect fall off-the-bone lamb shank with delicious rich and creamy dauphonise potatoes, while she choose the hake, on a bed of just-so smoked mashed potato, and topped with Morecambe Bay shrimp.
There was just about room left for a lovely berry crumble with custard, and a baked alaska, which although tasty, would have benefited from chewier meringue.
Like the menu, the wine list avoids pretension, offering choice without being daunting. We enjoyed a big jammy Argentinian malbec. We also shared a bottle of the house Smoked Porter. Was it any good? We bought a few bottles to take home with us.
Service was attentive and efficient, friendly, but without being overbearing. Perfect in other words.
Surely it should be obvious that comfort, along with cleanliness, should be the top priority for a hotel room. Why so many hotel operators seem to get this wrong is baffling. No such problem at The Wild Boar. Our huge room – one of three feature rooms – boasted large bed with memory foam-topped mattress all but guaranteeing a good night’s sleep. Everything else from hooks to full length mirror were where they should be. The large bathroom complete with shower had all mod cons, and the slipper bath was just an additional luxury.
The breakfast menu offers all a guest could want, from the full Cumbrian, to eggs various ways, to cereals, fruits, yoghurt (a special mention for arguably the best I have ever tasted), to pastries. The coffee however would benefit from a greater kick.
We also squeezed in what we thought would be a lunchtime snack in the relaxing bar with open fire and big comfy armchairs. A doorstep of a sandwich arrived with crisps, salad and coleslaw. Superb quality and value again.
Being a wonderfully crisp sunny autumn day we decided to work off a few of the calories with a gentle two mile circular stroll along quiet virtually traffic free winding country lanes following a guide which can found in the room. On route you can learn all about the history of the enchanting Gilpin Valley – including the legendary Sir Richard Gilpin who fought and killed the monster wild boar after which the hotel is named.
And if a few more calories need burning then take a stroll through the hotel’s own Wild Board Woods, and if you need wellingtons then they’re available at the hotel. Nothing is left to chance at the Wild Boar.
Visit englishlakes.co.uk for further details.