Staycation: Farlam Hall Hotel & Restaurant, Cumbria
Check in and tune out at this luxury retreat where homegrown produce gets the TV chef treatment
The branches of an old pine tree sway gently in the breeze through our bedroom window. I watch as rain collects in pools and clusters of diamond-like raindrops fall to the ground. Gazing out to the rose-studded English garden beyond, it’s all so peaceful. Earlier, as we arrived at this 15th-century manor house, receptionist Katie greeted us outside, armed with an umbrella, while a stream of well-heeled couples pulled up in smart cars to check in.
Nestled in verdant north Cumbrian countryside near the village of Brampton, Farlam Hall Hotel & Restaurant has a stately charm. On welcoming us inside, chef patron Hrishikesh Desai (who appeared on Great British Menu) says he instantly fell in love with this place, as it has ‘oodles of charm and class’. And it does.
Surveying our room, The Desai suite, with its antique furniture and vase of hydrangeas, we appreciate its many thoughtful details, such as an insulated stainlesssteel milk jug on the tea tray, an electric toothbrush charger in the spacious bathroom, ceramic decanters of Molton Brown bath products and a Dyson hair dryer.
Once unpacked, we head down to relax in the drawing room with its soothing stone-coloured walls, blue accents and paintings of clouds. Plump sofas and armchairs surround the fireplace and there are board games on a sideboard. An antique clock, built by Robert Stephenson (whose brother, George, invented the ‘Rocket’, a steam-powered locomotive) gently ticks away, as it has for more than 100 years.
As the rain eases, we head out to the kitchen garden. ‘Raspberry soufflés are on the menu tonight,’ the chef smiles as we munch on just-picked sweet raspberries the ruby juices staining my hands. Later, as we pass the kitchen en route to dress for dinner, the chefs are making pre-service omelettes and it’s nice to find Hrishikesh is as refreshingly down to earth as he seems on TV.
Dinner, served in Farlam’s Cedar Tree Restaurant, is a grand affair, living up to Hrishikesh’s Michelin-star reputation. Large windows overlook a lake and candles flicker on tables set with starched linens. Sommelier Alex presents a series of stellar wines, starting with a Lebanese Chateau Ksara Blanc de Blancs, which teams like a dream with a pea and broad bean tart.
The next dish, salmon decorated with edible flowers and micro herbs and served with a fragrant garden herb gazpacho, is pretty as a picture. Alex is soon back with pours of Bourgogne Les Sétilles to jive with our next course of ‘rainbow fish’, its tender flesh scored to look like a pineapple, spoons of sweet and sour sauce, griddled bok choy and potato rosti topped with caviar.
Up next is succulent chicken with hints of Indian flavour, which pairs perfectly with a Buena Vista Pinot Noir. There’s a touch of the exotic in many of Hrishikesh’s dishes but, like the man himself, it’s always subtle.
Following a sorbet palate cleanser, a fortified wine – Château de Beaulon – arrives to accompany chocolate delice topped with gold leaf. And then comes the chef’s famous raspberry soufflé – and it’s heavenly.Fluffy as a cloud, drizzled with berry coulis, served with pistachio ice cream and decorated with plump berries from the garden.
Petits fours – homemade chocolates, fudge and mango jellies – are the final flourish. Next morning, after breakfast of haddock and eggs with spinach and hollandaise, we set off hoping that a little of Farlam Hall’s ‘charm and class’ will rub off onto us and our own home cooking.
How to book
A one-night stay in a Classic double room at Farlam Hall Hotel & Restaurant starts at £295 per night (based on two people sharing) and includes breakfast. For more information and to book, visit farlamhall.com.