Watching Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon deadpan through another meal up North on this week’s episode of The Trip reminded me of our rather pleasant lunch at Holbeck Ghyll earlier this year (when we also visited L’Enclume), and that I have yet to write about here on the blog.
The pretty, well-appointed hotel overlooks the breathtaking Lake Windermere, and although the gorgeous scenery did factor into our stop here, it was the food that lured us to linger for lunch. The kitchen is presided over by David McLaughlin, the head chef at Holbeck Ghyll for the past decade, and the man who has helped the restaurant retain their Michelin Star throughout those 10 years.
As with most country house hotels the decor and furnishings look a little tired, and unfortunately even preceedings in the drawing room had a dated feel about them as we were presented with an uninspired trio of olives, taramasalata and cheesy bread sticks. After making our selections from the concise lunch menu (I had hoped to sample the tasting menu but it was sadly not on offer), we took our seats next to the bay window in the oak-panelled dining room and took in the impressive views while sipping a rich amuse bouche of Parsnip and Garlic Velouté.
To start, B chose the Rabbit Rillette which was elegantly presented as neat cylinders wrapped in parma ham. Served with crostini and a pea shoot salad drizzled with a truffle cream vinaigrette, it was light, fresh and perfect for summer.
My West Coast of Scotland Hand-Dived Scallops were impeccably executed. The plump truffle-topped specimens were seared to a textbook golden, yet still soft and yielding in the centre. Artistic swirls of concentrated balsamic dressing and celeriac prepared two ways (shoestring fries and purée) further accentuated the sweetness of the scallops.
I was drawn to the Best End of Cumbrian Lamb with Puy Lentils and Swede Purée, not so much for the meat itself, but rather the Haggis Beignets that also adorned the plate. The crunchy orbs were delicious (would have been even better paired with a pint!) but the lamb was woefully overcooked and not the rose pink I had in mind when requesting it done medium rare.
The Roasted Wild Sea Bass with Aubergine Caviar and Red Pepper Sauce on the other hand was faultless – flaky and moist with a well-crisped skin. It was however let down by the somewhat dull Mediterranean-inspired accompaniments.
It was a glorious summer day and the assiette of Strawberries seemed the most appropriate choice for dessert. The plate featured a trio of Strawberry Sorbet topped Cheesecake, and Crème Brûlée with Dried Strawberries and a Strawberry Cream-filled Cannelloni resting on fresh strawberries. Nice but not mind-blowing. We finished with a pot of tea, drawn out to prolong our enjoyment of the idyllic setting.
Although it was a perfectly civilised lunch and the lakeland views were truly stunning, it would be safe to say that you won’t experience any fireworks at Holbeck Ghyll – not at lunch anyway.
Cumbria LA23 1LU
t. 015934 32375