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The Restaurant At Askham Hall, The Lake District, England

By:
Harriet Upjohn
 

Where Is It: Askham Hall, the Lake District, Cumbria, UK.

Why Go: Fine dining, locally sourced produce, beautiful old country house.

Best For: Romantic dinners, special occasions.

Three Things We Loved: Fabulous wine pairings, relaxed atmosphere, top-notch service.

The Ultimate Factor: For large groups there’s an elegant private wood-panelled dining room, with its own fireplace and a table that can seat up to 18.

Overview:

While the lucky ones get to stay the night at Askham Hall, a rambling luxury boutique hotel near Penrith in the English Lake District, many come just for the dining experience. And it’s not hard to see why. Not only is this sprawling old mansion wonderfully atmospheric with its air of gently faded grandeur and buildings dating back to the thirteenth-century, the cuisine here is also something special (Askham Hall recently won the prestigious Taste Cumbria Award). With the menu dictated by the seasons, and much of the meat and produce grown in Askham Hall’s own gardens and surrounding estate, the emphasis is on fresh, locally sourced fare.

Head chef Richard Swale, who grew up in Cumbria, takes pride in sourcing delicacies from the surrounding area and his dishes are imaginative, innovative and often have the element of surprise. Think fine dining with a distinctly Cumbrian flavour. Not surprisingly, this place is in its element in the summer when the herbaceous borders are a riot of flowers and the kitchen gardens are overflowing with fruit and vegetables. But the winter menus are no less local in flavour, with much of that summer bounty appearing in delicious preserved form.

See our full review of Askham Hall’s luxury accommodation.

The Decor:

Inside and out, Askham Hall is a gorgeous and grand looking place; the sort you see in BBC period dramas with walled gardens, sweeping lawns and topiary hedges. Pre-dinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres are served in the drawing room, a sumptuously decorated space with comfortable sofas, ottomans, grand piano and large windows overlooking the garden. The restaurant is divided between three rooms, with two for private dining. The main part, the Garden Room, with an open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work, is a fresh, bright space with colourful Spanish tiles on the floor and doors that can be opened up to the garden in summer. Two separate, private dining spaces off the main part of the restaurant include an impressive wood-panelled room with a large fireplace and a table that seats up to 18. Around the house there are vases filled with flowers from the gardens, fascinating books and artworks. Ancient and modern sit comfortably side by side. Talking of ancient, a visit to the antique loo is a must!

The Menu And Wine List:

As you would expect, the menu changes regularly according to what’s in season. For example, wild garlic and sweet cicely, which grow in abundance on the banks of the nearby River Lowther, are used in early summer; while you’re likely to find dishes featuring game and wild mushrooms in the autumn months. The wine selections, all from family owned and run estates, feature some cracking drops you may never have heard of. There are even a small number of bottles available from Askham Hall’s owner’s private cellar plus a good range of quality wines by the glass, including an ever-changing “exceptional example” from the owner’s cellar as well as a champagne from the privately owned house of Joseph Perrier. A three-course set dinner, with two choices for each course, is 50 UK pounds per person, including pre-dinner nibbles and coffee. Alternatively, a five-course tasting menu is offered for 65 UK pounds a head.

What We Enjoyed:

The surprise of the evening was a rather unassumingly named first course of beef and onion broth, which turned out to be a delicious and delicate combination of beef fillet, smoked brisket, herbs and wild garlic. We were lucky enough to have Askham Hall’s sommelier Nico on hand to tell us not just about each dish before we made our choices but also to recommend wines to go with them. His choices were adventurous and inspired – for instance a Romanian red (Calusari Pinot Noir) with a main course of Dover sole, and a French white (Vincent Paris Granit Blanc) with the beef and onion broth.

The Verdict:

Wonderful grand country house atmosphere and innovative menu in a magnificent but easy-going luxury boutique hotel. Cumbria at its finest… and most delicious.

Askham Hall is located in Askham, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2PF, UK, www.askhamhall.co.uk.

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