The name Holbeck Ghyll has been firmly lodged in my memory since it featured in an episode of the brilliant series The Trip featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Kasia and I headed over to the Lake District this weekend gone to meet up with my folks and have a look round Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Farm, something Kasia has wanted to do for ages. Ever-eager to crowbar a posh lunch into an afternoon out, and unable to get a booking for the bargainous-sounding set lunch at The Samling, Holbeck Ghyll it was. I'd read some not-so-great reviews elsewhere (for example here and here), some claiming that the Michelin star held here wasn't perhaps justified, but they were all from a while back, so I was more than happy to find out for myself.
As an aside, if you like both Beatrix Potter and mingling with Japanese people, you'll adore Hill Top farm. I read somewhere that up to 25% of the visitors to the place hail from that part of the world. Why? Something to do with the unlikely combo of Renee Zellweger, David Beckham, the Japanese school system and something called kawairashii. Don't say you never learn anything here.
|The path to Hill Top Farm|
Anyway, after all that excitement we were well ready for lunch. First impressions of Holbeck Ghyll were that it was a pretty gorgeous country house hotel, with some serious wood, and arts-and-crafts type stained glass on the way in. Bit like a mini Cragside. Views over Windermere and beyond were stunning.
A quick note on the menu: their website trumps the fact that you can get a two course lunch for £26. True, but this would restrict you to only one starter and one main, while the rest of the mains cost nearly that much alone. Not quite disingenuous, but maybe just a whiff of sly...
My starter was smoked salmon with beetroot in various guises and horseradish creme fraiche. I'm not usually a fan of cold starters, but this was good. Very pretty plateful, as indeed all of them were, with toothpick-dotted spots very much to the fore. Three different colours of beetroot were judiciously pickled which worked great with the rich salmon and creme fraiche which, to be very fussy, could have used a bit more horseradish thwack.
|Cartmel valley smoked salmon, textures of beetroot, horseradish creme fraiche|
|Salad of warm Scottish langoustines with lobster and celeriac remoulade|
|Best end of Cumbrian lamb with shallot puree and rosemary jus|
|Fillet of Aberdeen Angus, crispy boneless oxtail, braised salsify, watercress, wasabi gnocci|
Sufficiently fuller of belly, and lighter of wallet, we eschewed desserts and finished with some powerfully good coffee and truffles outside on a terrace, taking in the full majesty of the view. On a sunny day, which this wasn't quite, I can't think of a better spot for an afternoon tea.
Meals like this do leave me wondering about how much I really want to see "premium" produce on the plate though; fillet of beef, best end of lamb, lobster, etc. All these things can be, of course, lovely, but often the depth of flavour, compared to cheaper and longer cooked cuts, just isn't there, although the price per plate certainly is. Holbeck Ghyll is styling itself very much as a luxury retreat in the lakes, so perhaps this demands that these are the main ingredients used.
As we wandered down the path back to the cars, I was tempted, Coogan-style, to give a big "A-HA" across the valley, but chickened out. Maybe next time, as an epilogue to an afternoon spent munching crustless sandwiches and cakes. That sounds good.
Holbeck Ghyll Website
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