There is something about fell-walking (that’s walking over hills, for those outside the UK) in Cumbria that does miraculous things to the appetite. Whether it’s a short walk around one of the many gob-smackingly lovely lakes or a long hike up to 3,000ft, you’ve taken in sufficient gulps of the elements to prepare you for some serious grub.
Luckily, Cumbria has such a massive array of fine restaurants that you don’t have to go far to scratch that hunger itch. Cottage in the Woods has a burgeoning reputation for providing diners and guests with a complete foodie experience, so I went to check it out.
It sits on the side of Whinlatter Forest – a famous destination for walkers and mountain bikers – just to the west of Derwent Water and Keswick. The first thing that strikes you is the view from the dining room – a vista that takes in the Skiddaw range. There was still snow at the peak when I was there, and yet it was warm enough for T-shirts. That’s the beautiful balance of the Lake District; the highest peaks, the deepest lakes, the whitest snow, the bluest skies, and, oh, it’s also the wettest place in England.
The restaurant’s kitchen is absolutely committed to sourcing the best local produce and, given that the spoils of the North Atlantic are really quite close by at Whitehaven, I thought I’d stick to a fish theme while here. So, dinner started with crab. It was gorgeous, creamy white meat, served with apple and other complementary bits and bobs. I could have eaten a dozen; so fresh and simple, and beautifully presented.
Then onto the main course; a stone bass dish. I love stone bass. It’s a fish not commonly seen in restaurants, although it’s becoming increasingly popular. Its white flesh has a blissfully delicate flavour, which goes well with a seafood-infused cream – exactly what chef had done here, alongside fondant tatties, a couple of sweet scallops and fresh-as-a-daisy broad beans. On top of all this, I’d picked out the Chapel Down Flint Dry white from our friends in Kent to match, and it couldn’t have worked better.
The dessert was t’riffic, with a figgy and elderflower theme, I recall… if owners Liam and Kath (and the Chef) will forgive me – I was staring at that beautiful view so intensely I’ve clean forgotten.
A lovely bottle of Coniston Bluebird by the fire, and to bed – a comfy, no-frills room before, you guessed it, kippers for brekkie.
I was still so relaxed from my stay at this beauty spot that even pulling down my sunglasses that morning to shield me from the gorgeous sunshine felt like hard work. Spare a thought for me, eh?