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What is left to be extraordinary in this shrinking world of ours anymore; especially at Christmas, which can often be bloated and kitsch? Surely there are no more surprises to be had? Every car boot seller would surely know if they had a Rembrandt on their hands these days; so where is the serendipity, the chance to find a masterpiece in the most unlikely of places?

Overwaterfacade

Well I’ve done it! Actually, I haven’t, the guys at Overwater Hall have done it; I, like so many of their faithful followers and guests over the last 22 years, have merely stumbled upon it.

I’ve been a Lakeland Lover for as long as I can remember. I’ve made the pilgrimage from Essex to Cumbria to bag all 214 of the Wainwrights (climb all the Cumbrian Mountains higher than 1,000ft in layman’s terms), but I’d never heard of Overwater.

It’s so completely different to the previous two hotels in my journey – the ridiculously gorgeous and contemporary Brimstone Hotel and Anna’s personal and foodie retreat at Beech House Holidays.

Overwaterentrance

This place is not trying to hide its Georgian roots nor is it leaving it to crumble at the seams until an inevitable foreign buyer appears – it’s utterly decadent, unashamedly antique and formidably colourful.

So many hotels in the Lakes try and emulate the Regency period – you know, blue and yellow striped wallpaper and paintings of idyllic hunting scenes – all hoping to evoke that historical appeal; ‘that place George IV had nookie with the local actress’ or ‘Wordsworth was here’, but so many fail. This place is a triumph. Nestled in the lowlands behind Skiddaw and Keswick next to Lake Bassenthwaite (the one with the ospreys); the hall dates back to the early 19th century becoming popular as a top end B&B in the 1960s and then bought by a triumvirate of friends in 1991 and gradually spruced up (lovingly) with food becoming the centre of everything.

Ravioli

Ravioli

Nicoise

Nicoise

Canapes

Canapes

Beef

Beef

Salmon

Salmon

Dinner was extraordinary. I save that word for the best, extraordinary. Every mouthful of langoustine and lobster ravioli for starters, mini tuna nicoise for fish course, fillet of beef for main and citrus trio for pud made sense. So much thought had gone into the tiny cherry tomatoes stuffed with onion marmalade; the miniature ratatouille modestly appearing at the side of a platter; a spun sugar cloche upon a cinnamon ice-cream that one wonders how many of them were in the kitchen – 100 Oompah Loompahs perhaps? This in a restaurant that seats 30 at most. This was a festive delight, no turkey (although the missus had an incredibly succulent chicken on sweetcorn puree) but festive nonetheless with the seasons being so respectfully showcased.

The fillet of beef was so spectacular that I’m finding it hard to hold back saying it was the best plate of food I’ve ever eaten – there, I said it! The lime posset was insane, as was the lady-wife’s hot-smoked salmon starter with cucumber jelly, crab and avocado. Service was beautiful, coffee in front of the fire after dinner and a black muscat pudding wine was sublime.

Posset

Back to our ‘semi-circular’ bedroom and following a very comfortable night we had the huge Cumbrian breakfast, which also was glorious and beautifully presented by the lovely staff.

Overwaterhall

Not everything these days needs to be contemporary to survive. This is a gem, a classically-designed experience, offering the very best in food, service, comfort and relaxation. It has a very subtle tongue-in-cheek appeal, thanks in part to one of the owners Stephen; they know what they have here, they have a vintage beauty and I defy anyone (of any age) to deny it. The awards have been flooding in and I can’t wait to go back. Did I also say what amazing value it is? £45 for four courses of the highest quality.

For further info visit the site.

Read parts 2 and 3…

About the author

Jim is Jamie's website editor, and as well as overseeing his brilliantly creative team he is always looking at ways to eat more great food because, as he says, "I'm always hungry and a little bit greedy".

Jim Tanfield's blog

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