Eating out in the Lake District has changed dramatically since the 1970s; when Sharrow Bay first achieved international fame. The choice is no longer between antiquated tea rooms or watering holes for hungry hikers (although both exist) instead it now rivals that of many big cities.
Four restaurants boast Michelin stars [L’Enclume has two] and prised pubs range from gastro to down-to-earth. Throw into the mix a fusion of classic bistros, tapas bars, farm shops and vegetarian cafés and you’ll not go hungry.
Local produce to look out for includes Herdwick lamb, damsons, Cartmel sticky toffee pudding, forest mushrooms, Grasmere gingerbread and the ginormous Cumberland sausage, and Cumbria is also home to dozens of breweries specialising in craft beers and traditional ales; it even has its own distillery, offering a selection of world-class spirits.
Here, we take a closer look at the region’s award-winning eateries to see what has made them worthy of such high praise.
Not only is Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume a holder of two Michelin stars, but it was also named as the best restaurant in Britain for four years in a row by the Good Food Guide. The restaurant is housed in a former ironmongers and whilst many of the original features have been retained, Rogan has taken a minimalist approach to the décor.
There are stripped back walls and floors, as well as bare tables, all to ensure that there is nothing to distract the diner from the food experience, which consists of one of two tasting menus, either the 10-course lunch time only menu or the 20-course lunch or evening menu.
The dishes themselves are a secret until your order is placed, when the waiter will then present you with a sealed envelope that contains details of what each course entails. Some diners prefer to leave the envelope sealed for an extra surprise. Each course is beautifully presented and uses only seasonal ingredients, many of which are grown in Rogan’s own farm.
Sister restaurant to L’Enclume, Rogan & Co is the holder of Simon Rogan’s newest Michelin star; housed in a 16th century building with exposed beams, whitewashed walls and roaring fire, all creating a more relaxed and informal atmosphere to that found at L’Enclume. Like L’Enclume, the restaurant makes the most of seasonal produce grown on Rogan’s farm.
However, Rogan & Co offers a more traditional restaurant experience with a standard 3-course menu; that being said, the dishes are presented in the same beautiful style and every mouthful offers a myriad of different flavours that complement each other perfectly.
Head Chef at Forest Side, Kevin Tickle spent nine years working under Simon Rogan at L’Enclume before moving to his position at the luxury Grasmere hotel. Rogan’s influence is clear with the restaurant also offering an exquisite tasting experience that uses the best of local and seasonal ingredients, and Tickle is particularly keen on foraging.
A true Cumbrian born and bred, Tickle spent much of his childhood collecting elderflower and other ingredients with his Dad to create wine. Before he opened the restaurant at Forest Side, he spent months in preparation by foraging the nearby countryside for ingredients to pickle and cure, and he continues to ensure that the tasting menu on offer is informed by local and seasonal produce. The menus claim to be inspired by the Cumbrian landscape, and Herdwick lamb is certainly one of the stars.
HRiSHi at the Gilpin Hotel was first awarded a Michelin star in 2016 and once again the British-Asian restaurant has retained the coveted award. The Head Chef, Hrishikesh Desai was born in India and trained and worked in France before moving to Cumbria. His dishes infuse the best of British produce with the exotic spices he grew up with, creating a taste explosion, mouthful by mouthful.
Morecambe Bass is combined with coconut and masala, whilst Scottish salmon is served alongside piccalilli and cucumber jelly. Diners can opt for a traditional three course meal, a tasting menu with seven courses, or a decadent and modern take on afternoon tea.