I can’t believe its now more than 6 months since I last set foot inside this lovely hotel to interview Managing Director, Chris Carss for my jaunty Glass of Wine With… chatty slot. I’ve been meaning to come back and review what appeared to be a delightful restaurant behind me as we sat talking in the cosy bar. Finally last Sunday, Mr Welly and I hot-footed it down to Grasmere, invited by Chris to come and sample their 4 course evening menu.
Having visited during the day, it was good to sample the evening ambiance after dark. We had booked an 8pm table which proved perfect timing as we just caught the setting sun in all its glory casting dark shadows over the dramatic slopes of Heron Pike through the panoramic windows. A truly magnificent view from our table, we were both impressed by the stunning location and extensive grounds surrounding the hotel so close to the heart of Grasmere.
Pristine and private, the 2 acre grounds are immaculately maintained. In fact everything about this hotel and restaurant oozes perfection, from the perfectly plumped cushions in the bar to the spotless reception area and dining room.
The restaurant itself is large enough to offer space and privacy between tables but not so vast that it loses intimacy. Set on two levels with cosy tables around the corners, the main attractions aside from the mighty fellside is of course the wonderful grounds and brand new spa building. Clad in wood, both the spa and outside decking create a warm and welcoming feel that resonates directly into the restaurant. The interior decor adds to the final touch with relaxing hues of mink and buff-coloured furniture enhanced by flickering candle light and gentle, tactile carved wooden ornaments dotted around the window sills.
We’re served by Elliott Waugh, Manager and veritable stalwart of the Rothay Garden, having worked here 12 years. It’s evident from the spotless interior that Chris’s attention to detail is second to none… and so therefore his choice of staff, as he proudly lists long-serving employees directly on the menu. It’s good to know that both resident Joint Chefs have been creating culinary delights at the Garden Restaurant for over 46 years between them. Multi-award winning with 2 AA Rosettes, we’re looking forward to the meal ahead…
The pre-starter of sweet potato soup is warming and delicious and prepares us nicely for the strong flavours we’ve chosen as Appetizers; mine is the Sautéed Quail Supreme with haggis and quail scotched egg, butternut squash purée, pancetta crisp, prune and glayva jus. A true cocktail of strong flavours which work fantastically well with the glass of paired Chardonnay as suggested by Elliott.
Hubby goes for Spiced Fishcake – an equally zingy starter, served with garlic mayonnaise, petit capers and mixed leaf salad. Paired with Sauvignon Blanc to temper the fish, it’s delicious.
Next up, Mr Welly opts for Pan Fried Medallions of Lakeland Venison with pear chutney, asparagus, fondant potato, red cabbage and mignonette pepper sauce.
I meanwhile choose the Trio of Cumbrian Lamb, a tasty mix of roast best end, sautéed loin and braised shoulder served with carrot purée, kenya beans, dauphinoise potatoes and rosemary jus.
Exquisitely presented the flavours are to die for but the pièce de la résistence comes from the wine pairing. Whilst Mr Welly’s venison is paired with deeply fruity Shiraz heavy with blackberry undertones, my lamb is accompanied by a lighter, more temperate Merlot. We both agree the pairing is just right.. and then decide to swap. The Shiraz is suddenly earthy and too heavy, drowning out the intricate flavours of my lamb… and the Merlot, well, does nothing for his Venison – bland and uninteresting.
It’s worth noting at this point that the Rothay Garden is the only restaurant to house a Cruvinet. And what is that I hear you ask? Sort of looks like an enormous fridge but within it the wine is treated quite intricately. As each glass is poured through a spout leading out, the vacuum is filled with nitrogen, a process which retains the freshness of the wine and so therefore it’s quality and duresse. Impressive attention to detail and the wine tastes good too 🙂
Still in savoury heaven I opt for the three local farmhouse cheeses as a final course, choosing Thursby Crofton, Swaledale and Westmorland Smoked. The mix of cow and goat in the semi-soft Crofton is by far my favourite just because it’s the stinkier end of my usual predilection but the other two are also mighty fine. Served on traditional Lakeland slate with a perfectly-sized jar of local chutney and just enough pieces of celery and grapes I indulge myself yet further with the suggested glass of Ramos Pinto Port.
Mr Welly chooses Warm Chocolate Brownie with white chocolate sauce and walnut ice-cream. Normally a lover of all things sweet, I’m not remotely jealous and don’t even ask for a taste, utterly consumed in the after-glow of savoury heaven.
The quality of produce and meats, all locally-sourced is top notch. The skilful fusion of flavours together with fabulous service and let’s not forget those fantastically paired wines from the Cruvinet, truly has Rothay’s Garden Restaurant standing proud at the top of its game. It never ceases to amaze me how blessed we are up here in Cumbria to have, not just amazing eateries, but dedicated owners like Chris Carrs, striving for the utmost in perfect hostelry. It’s always a plus when you come across a real gem such as this – a truly fantastic culinary experience in breathtaking surroundings here in Grasmere. We will be back!
Good for: Foodie lovers seeking cosy luxury in the heart of the Lakes.
Not for: Large groups and parties – in fact to maintain the peace and tranquility for Chris’ regular guests, weddings are also a no-no.
£££: £39 a head for the four course Fine Dining Menu – entirely reasonable given the quality of the food, service and surrroundings.
Tips: Arrive early, and savour the view over an appertif.
Rothay Garden Hotel, Broadgate, Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9RJ
T 015394 435334 www.rothaygarden.com