I’m a lucky lady. This is the second time in a matter of weeks I’ve stepped foot inside a Michelin-starred hotel to sample yet another tasting menu. You might think that all this gourmet eating in the name of Wellies & Wine might make me a blasé foodie, a take-it-or-leave-it taster but au contraire my friend… Trialling yet another delicious sample of exemplary cuisine so close to my review of the Forest Side has been interesting, not least because these two proud holders of Michelin-starred prowess offer very different styles of cuisine in settings that are quite frankly poles apart.
Unlike the dramatic earthy, back-to-nature feel at the Forest Side, the Gilpin retains its country, cosy feel, whilst resolutely traditional in its sumptuous, contemporary styling. Home of the Cunliffe family for several generations, this unassuming hotel set back from the Crook Road could easily be missed by the crowds intent on the hustle and bustle of Bowness and Windermere. But for those in the know, both visitors and locals alike, the Gilpin is the bastion of gastronomic flair with much-lauded notoriety for fine dining and luxury rooms.
Newbies seeking understated glamour in an intimate setting will not be disappointed. The bar feels privately appointed but is warm and welcoming whilst the plush, oversized sofas and comforting array of books and decorative features in the adjoining lounge the perfect place for pre and post-dinner relaxation.
With Mr Welly in tow this time, we settle in for canapés and aperitifs. The staff are relaxed and friendly – no stiff or stilted service here. Greeting other resident guests by name, the feel is understated luxury, a perfect bolt-hole in the Lakes for those seeking rest, relaxation and above all privacy; it’s no wonder that visiting celebrities slope off here for an intimate get-away.
The restaurant is split into two rooms beyond the lounge. Claudiu is our Head of House and promptly sets the scene for Hrishi’s six course Signature Tasting Menu. With three fish courses, duck liver and chicken, the choice of meats is more mainstream than the Forest Side but there is no doubt as to the culinary expertise behind each one.
It is the choice of flavours and style of cooking that make the dishes truly exquisite; the combination of creamy light avocado mousse with lobster claw fritter and grapefruit with ‘Panch Phoran’ mango chutney, is of course a nod to Hrishi’s Asian influence – essentially English dishes with a zingy twist.
Most notable is the ‘Domaine De Lanvaux’ Duck Liver. Served with sweet gingerbread and pineapple chutney, the bittter addition of chocolate jelly is a true cacophany of flavours which jostle together in surprising harmony.
Its pairing with a glass of darkly sweet Brumaire (Château Bouscasse) from the wine flight compounds the whole taste sensation – we’re both in awe and Mr Welly, well, he declares this to be the best fine dining experience yet.
Even the humdrum choice of chicken is a stand-out dish – the subtle taste of a simple meat combined with the rambunctious taste-sensation of sesame seed leg meat sausage, dry fruits and winter truffle creamed potatoes.
An utterly decadent dessert variation of banana, hot fudge and peanut butter semifreddo served with an espresso cup of silky-rich dark chocolate is the ultimate crowd-pleaser, wantonly sweet and a fabulous finish to a remarkable menu.
There is no doubt that the Gilpin deserves its recent illustrious accolade; Executive Chef Hrishi Desai has truly created extraordinary cuisine in a perfect setting. Retaining its charm and returning guests through consistent values and a perfectionist attention to culinary detail, this hotel is tucked away in tranquil bliss.
Such is the privacy of the setting that on a clear evening guests can gaze up in wonder at the dramatic star-filled night. Who knows, perhaps this traditional preserve on the Lakeland landscape may one day soon, swoop up that much-coveted second Michelin star? Onwards and upwards – that’s the way we see it going for the Gilpin and their talented Executive Chef.
Good for: Lovers of luxury and Michelin-starred dining in a decadent but cosy setting.
Not for: Those seeking polar opposite of the above.
£££££: 6 Course Signature Tasting Menu £90 per person; matched wine flight £60 per person. Regular 3 course fine dining menu £70 per person.
Tips: Savour, enjoy and take your time. This menu is all about indulgence and utter gastronomic relaxation.
Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Crook Road, Windermere, The English Lake District, LA23 3NE