If you’re looking for a wholesome bite to eat for lunch in Kendal, then head towards Caffè Nero in Market Place and immediately look right. Standing tall and proudly independent, step into the warm, cosy interior of Relish.
It’s the lunchtime rush as usual and owner Brent Ainsworth is busy. His two staff (one of whom is his niece) are prepping sandwiches and serving hot food to waiting tables.
I take a seat and inhale the divine smell emanating from the kitchen. Famed for its wholesome, home-cooked food, Brent’s cosy café is obviously doing a roaring trade – the locals know good food when they taste it.
Brent opened Relish nine years ago and religiously sticks to his mantra of sourcing local produce and serving up home-made delicious lunchtime food. The menu is made up of the usual lunch items – sandwiches, salads, paninis and cakes but it’s his Specials that attract the crowds. His most popular hot food is home-made chilli-con-carne and pulled pork baguettes complete with home-made barbecue sauce. Unable to make my mind up which to choose I go for two half-portions so I can appreciate his two key dishes and pass on the taste sensation to my readers of course…
The chilli-con-carne has plenty of meat and a rich tomato sauce. Rather than playing it safe, Brent’s chilli has a bit of a kick to it – after all that is what the dollop of sour cream is for.
Next up, the pulled pork. Complemented by his home-made barbecue sauce which is neither too sweet nor vinegary that it detracts from the meat, the pork is melt-in-the-mouth delicious. He uses collar pork and not shoulder as it’s less fatty with more flavour. Sourced from Todd’s of Kendal or Watson and Woollard butchers right here in Market Place, it’s perfect fare for a damp winter’s day. Other Specials he cooks which aren’t on the menu today are chicken and mushroom pie and beef stew and dumplings.
Meanwhile back at the homestead, wife Karen is busy making cakes and traybakes. Known for sweet treats like her Mississippi salted caramel brownie or sticky toffee pudding cake (minus the sloppy caramel sauce), I try a slice of her Christmas Bakewell.
Using mincemeat instead of raspberry jam and the thinnest layer of pastry at the bottom of the tart, this dessert is very more-ish. It’s lighter than a regular Bakewell because of the sparse pastry, which allows for more mincemeat and a moister cake all-round – delicious.
So what’s next on the menu for the New Year? Brent tells me that he and his wife have been trying out a deconstructed kebab at home and plan to introduce it around mid-January. It will consist of some pretty gorgeous ingredients such as kalamata tapenade, cured lemon paste (they preserve their own lemons), watercress pesto, greek yoghurt and tahini – sounds to die for.
I’m really impressed with Brent’s simple but hearty, quality fare. Full of flavour and cooked fresh each day, it’s no wonder that Kendalians are queuing here for their lunch rather than the pre-packaged, processed snacks on offer next door….
Good for: Grabbing lunch on the go or dining in for a quick bite to eat.
Not for: Adventurous foodies, or fine diners seeking white tablecloths. This is deli food.
£: Honest pricing for the quality of food being served. Sandwiches from as little as £2.60 (to go) and £3.80 (eat-in). Specials range from £6 to £8 (eat-in).