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An idyllic Cumbrian escape is made all the more memorable by a creative and sophisticated fine-dining tasting menu
After hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic on our gruelling drive north, I breathe in a welcome lungful of lakeside air on our arrival at Rothay Manor in Ambleside. Set against rugged fells at the northern tip of Lake Windermere, the Grade II-listed country-house hotel emits an immediate sense of tranquillity. Stepping inside, the elegant interiors reflect the landscape with a muted palette of creams and greens, William Morris-inspired textiles and botanical illustrations.
The newly built Pavilion sits within the grounds of the hotel and houses eight contemporary suites, four of which have private courtyard gardens. My Mum and I have struck lucky with ours – beyond the sliding glass doors, a luxurious hot tub awaits. And what more could you want after a day in the hills? A squishy sofa encourages lounging, especially with ac up of tea and a homemade oaty biscuit from the complimentary goodies. The luxury touches continue in the bathroom with fluffy towelling robes, double sinks and double walk-in showers, complete with rainwater showerheads and Bramley toiletries.
In addition to a Cumbrian escape, Rothay Manor is a destination for foodies, and I can’t wait to try the seven-course tasting menu at dinner. First, we take a seat in the comfortable lounge and let the friendly barman fashion us a Chambord and honey vodka fizz. It arrives with an amuse-bouche of cod’s roe custard, topped with pearls of trout caviar and served with wafer-thin poppy seed crackers. If this taster is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat. We take a seat in the award-winning 3 AA Rosette restaurant, where Daniel McGeorge heads up the kitchen with a fine-dining menu that champions local, seasonal produce, peppered with Japanese and Scandinavian influences. Good bread and butter are hard to beat, and mini treacle and rye loaves are a delight spread with cultured wild garlic butter. Next, a sticky Korean glazed sweetbread packs a flavour punch, while a dainty filo pastry basket is filled with juicy trout tartare.
But those tasters are merely the warm-up act. I quiz the knowledgeable waitress on the meaning of chawanmushi and discover that it is a savoury Japanese custard, here flavoured with roasted cauliflower and served in a little ceramic pot with a wooden spoon. It is enriched with truffle and topped with a Parmesan foam. Beautifully tender sirloin of Dexter beef is another standout course, with textures of smoky aubergine and a bone marrow jus bringing everything together. Whipped tofu comes as a surprise on the sweet end of the menu, but it really works. It acts as a creamy mousse-like vehicle for a myriad of fresh, roasted and puréed strawberries, and aerated matcha cake. It is exquisitely presented, as is our final dessert of bitter chocolate ganache with malted milk ice cream.
Tummies satisfied, we sink into our sumptuous bed for a restorative night’s sleep before a day ofexploring – and of course, our next meal. Breakfast has an excellent choice of cooked dishes to set you up for the great outdoors, as well as a spread of compotes, croissants, yogurt and granola. The hotel is in an enviable position in the centre of the national park, with no shortage of hikes and historic houses on your doorstep. We set off to the nearby beauty spot of Tarn Hows, once owned by Beatrix Potter before she left it to the National Trust in her will. The walk with majestic mountain views and serenely still waters is the perfect tonic for the stresses of modern-day life. After getting our fill of fresh air, all that’s left to do is return to the comfort of the hotel, kick off our walking boots and soak into steaming hot bubbles.
Double rooms start from £200 per night, with breakfast, or from £310 per night with a seven-course tasting menu, for two people. For more info, visit rothaymanor.co.uk.