How do you improve an already lovely restaurant and hotel? Well, schlap a brewery and a smokehouse onto the side of it, of course. This is exactly what my friends at the Wild Boar Inn have done and they aren’t shy about popping just about anything into the smoker – but more on that later.
Do you know, I must’ve driven down this road (Kendal Road near Windermere, Cumbria) a dozen times and I never once noticed the Wild Boar Inn – for such a massive place it has a very incongruous entrance.
It sits in a wood, so perhaps like its namesake, it’s an elusive but ebullient thing; once hunted down, never forgotten; wild and tasty… and so on.
I was staying and eating here after the long drive up to the Lake District from Essex, and once I’d parked I took the seemingly endless walk past the doors to the suites, all named after notable porcine heroes (Old Spot, Tamworth, etc) to the reception, where I was greeted by a very warm Cumbrian welcome.
The room (Great White) was gorgeous and richly decorated, and the bath – oh, my! It was a huge copper number, could have been a cauldron for a cow. Loads of thought had gone into the room, so it was with great anticipation my thoughts turned to dinner.
It all kicked off with the appetizer: a platter including pork crackling sticks and whopping great olives, beautifully simple and generously furnished – a bit like me really, so I was more than happy.
The main eating area was a classic English pub experience; loads of room with trinkets and nik-naks on the walls, and as I was daydreaming about the type of pub I’d have run had things gone in a different direction, my main course turned up – and as you may have guessed, it was wild boar. The smoked fillets were quite a bit paler than I was expecting, but nevertheless succulent and well peppered, with a subtle gamey flavor – not at all the overpowering super-game of say pheasant or hare. They were beautifully cooked, handsomely presented and very satisfying indeed.
Then, for pud, a huge and surprising curveball. Many restaurants have a signature dish, and many try and be too clever with foams, veloutes, custards or cooking absolutely everything in a flipping water bath; well, The Wild Boar Inn has its own signature for dessert and it’s smoked cinnamon ice cream with bacon. Yes, I know you would have read that twice – I must have read it at least three times on the menu before ordering.
It’s as delicious as it is unfathomable, I assure you. Salt and sweet is the latest thing, of course – think of salted caramel and popcorn – so the bacon helped the ice cream, and then the haymaker of smoked cinnamon. Bonkers but brilliant.
This was all washed down with one of the pub’s beer offerings – oh yes, they make their own beer in a brewing house, had I mentioned that?
With the smokiness of the meal lingering on my tongue, the management then took me on a little tour of the smokehouse. Meat, fish, cinnamon and malts (for their own smoked porter – a type of dark beer) are delivered from here. These service the restaurant and the bar with sensational flavours, and it’s all delivered with such attention and innovation that it can stand up straight and call itself a real foodie retreat.
Amazing, luxurious, comfortable rooms, a huge bath, great food, great beer, and lovely staff – although perhaps the sign could be a little bigger!