Welcome to the first part of my culinary Cumbrian Christmas tour around the English Lake District. It is without question my favourite part of England, and if you’ve never been, Christmas is a magical time to go.
And while there is never a shortage of places to eat and stay here, there are some hidden gems which I’ll be exploring over the next few blogs, as well as the ‘number one restaurant in the UK’!
First up, Langdale…
There is something utterly beguiling about details, a charm that tells you every part of a machine is in great working order, and this place has got it perfectly right, even down to the Harris Tweed waistcoats of the staff.
This is the Brimstone Hotel in the Langdale Estate, Chapel Stile in the Lake District and flippin’ heck, it’s something really special.
Me and the missus are put up in the Mezzanine suite, a split level luxury room which has a huge bed upstairs and a bath in the living area which you can soak away your walking pains in view of the huge smart TV.
I kid you not, this is top-end, beautiful, gorgeous escape material in the most beautiful part of the country.
There are treats for the gadget geek – the child within us, in other words – the curtains are electric, the lights are digitally changeable to suit your mood and there’s a hi-tech shower.
There is a view from the balcony towards the Langdale Pikes, the spiky bits of the National Park visible from almost everywhere in Cumbria, which really is the icing on the cake – but let’s concentrate on the cake.
If the detail in the rooms is that good, Heaven only knows what the food is like and we made our way to Purdeys, the onsite restaurant.
I order a bottle of the Chapel Down Flint Dry white. Despite having an horrific 2012, with their grape yield down almost catastrophically, this is without doubt my favourite English winery and wine (their IPA beer is awesome too should you stumble upon it in your local Waitrose).
For my dinner I order the gin-cured salmon with cucumber sorbet & lime, and I’ve gotta tell you, it was the best fish cure I have ever eaten – and I’ve eaten a lot of cured fish. It was so fresh and simple, butter-tender with a citrus hit that was incredibly refreshing and different.
The missus had venison carpaccio and croquettes with white shallot sauce – there are many wild deer in Cumbria and this was from local meat and dare I say it, is even better than the Essex equivalent we are used to, super gamey and succulent.
Mains for me was cod with chorizo (which actually was ham hock I think on the day) served in a clam chowder. I was worried this was going to be over salty, but the balance was struck perfectly, thanks probably due to the hock substituting chorizo!
The wife went for the fillet of beef with truffled mash; elegant and tender with a not overly-pungent mash with the required earthiness.
I skipped pud, but Kate pointed out the toasted marshmallow with mango sorbet, compressed pineapple and shortbread crumbles – make your own mind up how good it was. You’re right – two spoons requested.
We sojourned to the Brimstone’s Library, where complimentary cheese, wine, local beer, chocolate, coffee, tea and interesting guests get together before going back to their ridiculously beautiful rooms.
I love this place, and am sorry to say goodbye as it is the most beautiful hotel in the most dramatic location in England. Nearby Hawkshead, Ambleside and Windermere can back up these claims but it is not cheap, although good value, which is why one should consider this for those super-rare occasions such as honeymoons and ‘significant’ birthdays and anniversaries.
Next evening, following a marathon ramble over Lingmoor Fell and Silver Howe into Grasmere, we dine at the hotel’s pub The Wainwright’s Arms, a five-minute walk away where the portions are huge (I had smoked mackerel pate while Kate enjoyed prawn cocktail, followed by veggie burger while I had fish and chips).
Another amazingly comfortable night in front of the contemporary (but real log) fire; no we didn’t want to leave – the finest hotel room I have ever had the pleasure to stay in. Design awards have already been won and there will undoubtedly be many more on the way.