The Samling Hotel, a true stalwart of the Lake District. For years this country house hotel has presided over Lake Windermere from its lofty seat high up on the fellside. Nestled in 67 acres of land with just 11 bedrooms this luxury hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant is straight out of an asprational guide book to the Lakes. But big change has happened here over the past year and there’s more to come. This majestic house that once hosted exclusive parties before becoming a hotel was built in the late 1700s and originally called Dove Nest. Owned by the same person as Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth used to walk across the fells here to pay his rent and spent many an afternoon having picnics in the grounds with his sister Dorothy. In those days the house would have been typically Victorian with its gables, attractive porch and large open fireplace.
The last 6 months has seen the addition of a huge, glass annex which now houses its fabulous new restaurant. For architectural buffs who love a bit of modern glass rubbing shoulders with centuries old, this is Cumbria’s juxtaposition equivalent of the Parisian Louvre. If your sensibilities lie more with convention and tradition, then close your eyes and rock up anyway – the food is divine and sheer Michelin-starred excellence.
The Samling Manager, Alasdair Elwick invited me to sample the à la carte lunch menu. Bringing my Welly pal, Jill as my plus one, the restaurant was super quiet with just a couple of covers on the tables next to us. The rest of the hotel being the original house is currently shut for further refurbishment; fingers crossed the builders aren’t bashing through those Victorian historical features. When complete, guests will arrive and enter the restaurant through the main house where they will be able to sit in front of the fire and partake of an apperitif before being taken through into the restaurant.
The new entrance and driveway to the hotel is a much longer trajectory than before; it bends and climbs steadily upwards towards the house with luxurious anticipation. On arrival, the glass extension is impressive; in stark contrast to the house, huge linear panels of uninterrupted glass reach out towards the lake, defiantly holding fort over the valley below.
We climb up temporary steps towards a modern bar area which leads directly into the restaurant. An interiors choice of subtle greys and white create a calm and unobtrusive ambience, so as not to detract from the spectacular aspect over the Lake. The walls are decorated with simple but iconic art by modern Spanish artist Joan Miró; the colours a true reflection of the vibrancy of dishes we’re about to taste.
We are seated at the furthest point overlooking the lake and valley below. A terrace reaches out beyond the restaurant – perfect for al fresco drinks in the summer, weather dependant of course. For now it’s piddling down outside and we can only imagine how amazing this view would be on a glorious day.
So on to the food. We’re served a trio of canapés to begin with, beautifully presented and arranged around the edge of an unusual slab of stone with a mirrored version of Lake Windermere in the centre. Take a look at the photo above and you get the gist 😉 My Welly pal opts for the blue cheese and cauliflower leaf canapé at Ambleside and I plump for marinated Scottish salmon with Swedish mayo at sort-of Newby Bridge. Indulging in a glass of Marlborough Sauv Blanc, we’re settling in for what is promising to be a luscious lunch.
With the zingy, goose-gog taste of New Zealand’s finest white on our palates we both opt for fish starters. I choose the Tuna which, served with wasabi and sesame in a light consommé is the closest I’m going to get in Cumbria to my fave food of choice: Sushi.
Jill goes for Scallops served randomly with bone marrow and bbq chicken wing; it works for her and we ooh and ah over the delicate flavours which match the wine.
For main, I divert from the sublime and opt for Beef and an earthy glass of Mad Dog Shiraz from the Barossa Valley as recommended by Head Sommelier, Ladis Basta. The beef is rambunctious if such a word is fitting for food; served in a smokey truffle-infused oxtail jus, the dish is divine – intense and full of hearty flavours, matching perfectly with the spicy, plummy depth of Shiraz.
Jill meanwhile sticks with fish and chooses cod, served with pork belly and rhubarb. Paired with an aromatic oak-aged white Belezos Rioja from Bodegas Zugober, the fresh creamy flavour spiked with cinnamon undertones enhances the succlent but delicate flavours of her main course – another great pairing made in foodie heaven.
Next up, a palate cleanser in the form of pre-dessert canapés. The fave by far is the zingy pineapple-infused cardamom lemongrass sorbet which paves the way for our dessert choices: Apple & Hazelnut served in a sweet and silky calvados syrup for me and Passionfruit & Sweetcorn with white chocolate for Jill.
The presention is truly magnificent. The colourful choice of tableware together with the food provide us with a fabulous finale of what has been an exquisite lunch.
As it should be, the attention to detail here is second-to-none. Head Chef Nick Edgar, originally from Buckinghamshire, rightly deserves his Michelin Star. I went downstairs into what I expected to be the bowels of a steamy kitchen to say hello and instead was met by a further extension of the restaurant upstairs – floor to ceiling windows let in what sunshine we had today, the light dancing on the gleaming surfaces of the vast steel preparation area. A private dining suite to the left, just past a cavernous wine cellar… I cannot wait to see what further luxuries lie in store when the original house is revealed in all it’s re-vamped glory.
Good for: Lovers of lazy high-end lunches with a dreamy view…
Not for: Those seeking cosy dining in a traditional setting at pub prices. Of course.
£££££: Michelin-starred food therefore high-end prices. At £65 per head for a 3 course à la carte lunch, it’s not cheap but neither should it be. This is fine dining at its best. Take it or leave it folks 😉
The Samling, Ambleside Road, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1LR
015394 31922 | www.thesamling.co.uk