The best fine-dining restaurants in the Lake District
Cumbria is the north of England’s fine dining capital, with 13 Michelin stars including chef Simon Rogan’s three-star L’Enclume in Cartmel, where the wildly inventive tasting menu of local and foraged ingredients costs £250.
Chef Robby Jenks’ tasting menu at The Samling, newly awarded one star, is an indulgent celebration of luxury ingredients served in a contemporary glass-and-steel annexe with stirring views over Windermere. Expect the likes of langoustines with caviar and shellfish bisque, and wagyu beef with lovage and potato.
Michelin dining doesn’t have to break the bank, though, as the also newly awarded one star Heft proves. It’s in the tiny village of High Newton, near Cartmel, and a memorable four-course lunch in Kevin and Nicola Tickle’s simply decorated 17th-century inn might include mussels in an addictively spicy ‘chip shop’ curry sauce – and is a bargain at £45.
The best casual eats in the Lake District
The Lake District isn’t just about starry dining, and there are plenty more relaxed eating opportunities. Make sure you’re first in the queue at noon when the tiny, tucked away Tacos del Sol Mexican hole-in-the-wall in Ambleside opens – bag a stool at the counter and enjoy one of Mexico City-born chef Marisol Kidd’s superlative pork tacos.
Explore an Aladdin’s cave of antiques and reclaimed architectural salvage at Yew Tree Barn in Low Newton, then head to the on-site Harry’s Cafe, run by Simon Rogan alumnus Gerald van der Walt, for the ever-changing eclectic menu highlighting local produce in dishes such as Cumbrian cassoulet (local sausage and bean stew).
A mile north of Grasmere, The Yan is a bistro with modern, comfortable rooms, cottages and glamping, a great base to explore the surrounding fells. A walk to Grisedale Tarn will give you an appetite big enough for their hearty version of shepherd’s pie made with braised local Herdwick lamb.
The Lake District’s best artisan food and drink spots
With staff dressed in Victorian costume and the irresistible aroma of ginger in the air, Grasmere Gingerbread might be too much on the tourist trail for some, but the freshly baked gingerbread is a proper homemade treat.
For a more modern Scandi-influenced take on baking and excellent locally roasted coffee, head to the nearby Mathilde’s Café at Heaton Cooper Studio where the doughnuts are a must order at the weekend, as are the cinnamon buns at Lovingly Artisan near Kendal. Their sourdough loaf selection includes dark chocolate malt with orange.
You’ll find one of the best selections of local cheeses at Low Sizergh Barn, including Kendal Creamy, made with milk from Low Sizergh’s herd, which you can watch being milked through the windows of the farmshop café.
The need-to-know gourmet enclave
For a village with a population of about 1,500 people, Staveley, a few miles north of Kendal, overdelivers on the food and drink front. Head to Staveley Mill Yard where you can drink some of the best beer in the Lake District on the site where it’s made – in the beer hall of Hawkshead Brewery.
Eat a Staveley Fried Chicken sourdough roll at More?, where all the bread and cakes on sale are made in the bakery on the floor above. For great gifts, buy quality chocolate bars (the dark choc and cherry is particularly good) and bonbons at The Blind Chocolatier, made on site by former pastry chef Stuart Hann, who’s registered blind.
Don’t leave the village without trying one from the ever-changing selection of smooth Italian-style gelatos at Kimi’s Gelato – they’re churned daily on site and might include sticky toffee pudding flavour.
What to do in the Lake District when you’re not eating…
Even if you’re not a poetry fan, a visit to Wordsworth Grasmere is worthwhile just to tour the perfectly preserved Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s family home, which gives a fascinating
insight into early 19th century domestic life. Lovers of literature will appreciate the museum, which brilliantly documents the Romantic poet’s life and work.
The Gothic Revival-style Wray Castle, looming over the shores of Lake Windermere, is all the more impressive when you discover it was built as a private residence. Admire the castle’s church-like interiors and the stunning lakeside views from the terrace, then stroll along the Windermere shoreline before stopping at Joey’s in the castle grounds for a cup of locally roasted coffee and plant-based baked treats, including saag aloo pasties. All excellent.
Where to stay
Rothay Manor is a charming Grade II listed Regency hotel in secluded grounds close to Ambleside town centre. All 23 rooms are spacious and
individually designed with a sumptuous, modern country house vibe. Don’t miss chef Daniel McGeorge’s creative cuisine, served in the hotel’s elegant restaurant. Doubles from £220 B&B.
The Samling has just 12 rooms in a converted Georgian house and outbuildings, set in 67 acres of land and overlooking Lake Windermere. The service is so personal and friendly it feels like a home from home, albeit a luxurious and stylish one. Push the boat out and treat yourself to dinner here, too. Doubles from £490 B&B.