Cumbrian Fine Dining

Hors d'oeuvres, Hendrick's gin & tonic
langdale
The stunning view out across lake Windermere and in to the Langdale valley from Holbeck Ghyll

Five Cumbrian Fine Dining Establishments Rated…

The following table provides a summary of our experiences at five of Cumbria’s finest restaurants (which includes all currently Michelin starred venues). The best overall experience at the top, and the most disappointing at the bottom…

Rank Restaurant Venue Service Food Overall Comment
1 Gilpin Lodge :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: Best food.
2 Holbeck Ghyll :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: As good as its reputation?
3 The Samling :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: One to watch…
4 Sharrow Bay :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: Best venue, disappointing service.
5 L’Enclume :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star: Disappointing.

Summary

It’s taken several years to work our way around these amazing restaurants. Lets face it, they are expensive, and one needs a suitable special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary to justify the extravagance! So it is very possible that some of our experiences from longer ago have changed considerably in the intervening time. However, in the order we sampled them here are a few thoughts and explanations for the rankings as above:

L’Enclume

A Michelin starred venue! Why does it come at the bottom of the list, with two non-starred venues scoring higher? Well, I suppose part of the reason is that a certain expectation is set by having that star. So while the various dishes were amazing, imaginative, and superbly tasty they just didn’t deliver to the level we expected. Combine this with having a pretty ordinary venue with no special views – no super luxurious lounge area for pre-dinner drinks and after dinner coffee for example, and very plain white-washed decoration, and it just didn’t add up for us.

Laetitia anticipating dinner outside the Samling
Laetitia anticipating dinner outside the Samling
The Samling

We went to the Samling for Laetitia’s birthday a few years ago and were very impressed, what a fantastic place! If we think about L’Enclume, Holbeck Ghyll, or any other venue in this list in fact, why doesn’t the Samling have a Michelin star? Service is on a par with any here, and with brilliant food. However, it’s knocked down the rankings a bit by its venue, while still being extraordinary, it is not quite as stunning as some of the others here, i.e. Holbeck Ghyll and Sharrow Bay.

Laetitia on the jetty at Sharrow Bay looking down Ullswater
Laetitia on the jetty at Sharrow Bay looking down Ullswater
Sharrow Bay

Sharrow Bay was another birthday luxury for Laetitia, and it has to be said straight away, especially considering its long-held Michelin star, that we thought Sharrow Bay seriously under delivered! Hence why it’s forth in the ratings above. It all centres around the hors d’oeuvres… We were asked to come through to the dining room and I had to point out that we hadn’t had our hors d’oeuvres, as we’d seen several other guests enjoying. This was quickly solved of course. But when Laetitia later settled in to enjoy her starter and main courses both were accompanied by very similar (probably exactly the same) mushroom risotto rice. Now that risotto was lovely, but it’s disappointing to have it three times in such a celebrated restaurant where one expects to sample many different flavours. Why didn’t they point out this oversight when we ordered? Which was before the missing hors d’oeuvres event. Of course you expect that they’d have known what the hors d’oeuvre was going to be and could have easily pointed out the potential issue. Therefore they have to lose a star for service – in fact it’s lucky it wasn’t two stars lost!

However, Sharrow Bay probably has the most inspiring venue of any listed here, with a view only beaten by Holbeck Ghyll, and bettered by being directly on the shore of Ulswater.

Gilpin Lodge

While Gilpin Lodge is an awesome place it just does’t have the incredible location enjoyed by Sharrow Bay or Holbeck Ghyll. But it does have a seriously luxurious, comfortable, and contemporary layout that invites you stay a little longer and enjoy another gin and tonic (and spend a bit more). Along with that contemporary feel are surprising technological things like subtly hidden iPads and other such geeky entertainment…

However, back on the theme, what sets this venue so high up this list – despite it not being Michelin starred – is the fantastic food! And perhaps the better value too as on the face of it the menu suggests the same sort of thing as any of the others here. But here you do seem to get more for your money with surprising extra courses between the three mains. Such as an amuse-bouche and a palate cleansing sorbet for example! While of course the main courses are all superb too. Hence, despite losing a star for the venue’s lack of a breath taking Lakeland view, and despite not having the Michelin star, Gilpin Lodge comes top of the list!

Weird ain’t it? This result, and the opposite result for L’Enclume: bottom of the list and with a Michelin star. It kind of brings in to question the whole Michelin star award system doesn’t it?!

Hors d'oeuvres and Hendrick's gin & tonic
Hors d’oeuvres and Hendrick’s gin & tonic
Holbeck Ghyll

Our most recent experience has been at Holbeck Ghyll. A venue that had recently featured on BBC 2 in The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon undertaking a restaurant tour of northern England…

Holbeck Ghyll is situated with perhaps the most breath taking views across lake Windermere and in to the Langdale valley, especially so with evening summer sunshine lighting up the fells. The Lake District has got to be one of the most beautiful places in the world! This view is, in our view, the best of any venue described here. However, Sharrow Bay’s location directly on the shoreline of Ulswater and its level grounds do just beat Holbeck Ghyll.

If only Holbeck Ghyll had something like the same delightful surprise extra courses in between the main courses as Gilpin Lodge, then it would have been top. Which is where we’d expected it to be. Brilliant, but not quite the best here.

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