Best restaurants in the Lake District: where to eat and drink

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A bedroom at The Samling, Windermere

10 best restaurants in the Lake District

L’Enclume, Cartmel – for legendary fine dining

It is difficult to overstate the influence of chef Simon Rogan’s three Michelin star HQ. Since 2002, this former smithy (an elegant modern space, the service warm and well drilled) has redefined the creative possibilities of seasonal British food in revelatory plates of, for example, Duroc pork and smoked eel fritters with fermented corn and lovage; lamb sweetbreads and ramson honey; or classics such as the caramelised birch sap pudding with Corra Linn cheese and stout vinegar. Book well in advance or try L’Enclume’s Cumbrian satellites, Rogan & Co or Henrock.

The Punch Bowl Inn, Crosthwaite – for elevated classics

Great staff, roaring fires and well-executed classics (ham hock terrine; scallops in a garlic gruyère sauce; lamb with dauphinoise, kale and root veg) make this polished inn easy to love. The twice-baked lancashire cheese soufflé is unmissable. Walk it off in the beautiful, surrounding Lyth Valley.

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The Punch Bowl Inn

Homeground, Windermere – for brunch

Leave the quaint tearooms to the tourists and make a beeline for this modish spot, with its next-level brunch dishes and deft use of locally roasted Carvetii and Red Bank coffees. Smoked cheddar and parmesan cornbread with soured cream, poached egg, glazed chorizo, charred corn, lovage salad and fermented garlic honey; or avo toast with savoury granola and preserved lemon dressing give you a taste of what to expect. Walk-ins only.

Lake Road Kitchen, Ambleside – for trying rare ingredients

One of Britain’s most singular dining experiences. Chef, grower and forager, James Cross, in his use of exceptional, rare ingredients and arresting techniques (he even dry-ages his butter), creates thrillingly different dishes of, say, tiger prawn, citrus miso and cured trout roe; fried chicken, smoked peppers and lime; or a custard of nine-year-old parmesan, tomato relish and aged balsamic. Opened in 2014, LRK’s 10th anniversary year saw it awarded its first Michelin star.

Local lad Ryan Blackburn’s cosy, Michelin starred nook offers visitors comprehensive insight into Cumbria’s food heritage. His contemporary tasting menu explores the region from its forests (venison loin and caul fat wrapped shoulder, with artichoke, glazed morels and Madeira sauce) to its historic spice ports (caramelised rum gelato, pineapple, sticky toffee and chantilly cream). Ryan’s Herdwick hogget consommé, used in various ways across his menus, pays glorious tribute to the iconic Cumbrian sheep. This summer, look out for a new small plates wine bar above the Stamp House.

Old Stamp House

Heft, Newton-in-Cartmel – for a gourmet pub

A smart rural inn, Heft’s bar is very much a pub, complete with pies, sausage rolls, top Cumbrian beers and weekly specials, such as curry nights or pizzas from street food outfit, Yonder. In the Michelin-starred restaurant, chef Kevin Tickle’s tasting menu works imaginative wonders in dishes of mutton ham, egg yolk and sea truffle crumpet; or a mussel kebab glazed in XO and mead, with chip shop curry sauce. Sunday lunch runs to sharing beef ribs or whole roast monkfish, with glamorous extras such as Tunworth cheese and truffle mash or ramson béarnaise.

Great North Pie Co, Ambleside – for pie and mash

Historically, the Lake District lacked high-quality, affordable, casual dining options. That is changing with Great North’s hip, compact Ambleside diner a case in point. In its 14-hour braised beef and ale or Dewlay Lancashire cheese and caramelised white onion fillings, the Cheshire-based pastry aces create some of Britain’s best pies. It’s £13.75 for pie, superlative mash and gravy – perfect after a day exploring the fells.

Forest Side, Grasmere – for a Michelin-starred oasis

Step inside this imposing Victorian villa, now a Michelin-starred restaurant-with-rooms, and the stress of real life melts away. Affable, obliging staff guide you to a light, airy dining room where, often using produce from Forest Side’s one-acre walled garden, chef Paul Leonard and team make flavours sing in their intelligent, assured dishes. Think scallops, morels and cured Middle White pork; or cod in local Solway brown shrimp sauce. You’ll leave revitalised.

The Forest Side

The Cottage in the Wood, Braithwaite – for Michelin-starred local produce

This one Michelin star restaurant-with-rooms in Whinlatter Forest has long been a magical bolthole. Now, talented chef and FOH duo, Jack and Beth Bond, are stewarding its next phase. Cumbrian suppliers (Growing Well, Cartmel Valley Game, Winter Tarn Dairy) underpin Jack’s elevated creations of, say, gin-cured trout, horseradish and beetroot; or jerusalem artichoke agnolotti with pickled walnuts. Excellent low-intervention wine list, too.

Base, Bowness-on-Windermere – for sourdough pizza

A Lakes outpost of the British pizza revolution, where 48-hour fermented sourdough bases are wood-fired to pillowing, blistered perfection. Toppings include soft, spicy Calabrian ‘nduja sausage and pepperoni; or fennel salami, rocket and parmesan. Keen to look beyond the Italian classics? Try the Moroccan-spiced Lakeland lamb with chillies, red onion and barrel-aged feta.

Foodie town in the Lake District


But for its eponymous mint cake, Kendal is not known for its food. It is overlooked entirely by many visitors who, alighting at Oxenholme station or racing past from the M6, head straight for the Lakes’ better-known hot spots. This is a mistake. The food and drink scene in this handsome market town is on a flavour-packed roll at casual dining spots such as Comida, Marra 46, Pappy’s Texas BBQ, Baba Ganoush and exciting small plates restaurant, Ramble, run by wine-maker, Northern Wine. It is home to two mega breweries, Lakes Brew Co, which hosts street food traders at its monthly brew-tap, and Fell (check its bar and new arts venue, Glisky). Kendal also boasts award-winning butcher, Roast Mutton, a carefully curated, twice-monthly farmers’ and artisan-makers’ market (second/last Fridays), and, just outside town, one of Britain’s best bakeries, Lovingly Artisan – a neighbour to, among other food businesses, Plumgarths farm shop. Is Kendal Cumbria’s tastiest town? Quite possibly.


Foodie activities in the Lake District

Grasmere: walks and forks

Whether exploring the woodlands at Allan Bank house (once Wordsworth’s home), tackling Helm Crag or the three-mile circular route from the village via Alcock Tarn, Grasmere offers a multitude of walking routes and places to refuel after. The eclectic The Jumble Room restaurant is a much-loved classic, The Yan a contemporary bistro and Mathilde’s Café at the Heaton Cooper Studio galleries, an unexpected Scandi find. Visitors can book talks on Cumbrian food history at Sarah Nelson’s The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, while Tweedies and The Good Sport, the latter the tap bar for Grasmere Brewery and distillery, offer the latest in craft beer and gin.

Low Sizergh Barn, Sizergh

Family fun for all ages. Adults will love the extensive farm shop that, among myriad Cumbrian delicacies, sells fruit, veg and raw milk from the surrounding working farm. Younger children will enjoy the ice cream and free farm trail with its woodlands, streams, willow tunnel and hidden faerie doors. Families can also watch Low Sizergh’s cows being milked in its parlour (3.30-5pm, daily).

Our Farm, Cartmel Valley

The incredible produce grown at Our Farm is crucial to Simon Rogan’s restaurants and, this summer (select Mondays/Tuesdays) visitors can take a tour with farm manager, John Rowland, and chef, Liam Fitzpatrick. Snacks using prize farm ingredients are served along the route, before guests sit down to a lunch feast of open-fire dishes (flatbreads with herb butter; braised, coal-roasted lamb shoulder; chilli oil and garlic-dressed kale) cooked by Liam’s team. Back in Cartmel, visit foodie Unsworth’s Yard and the Village Shop deli, birthplace of Cartmel’s legendary sticky toffee pudding.

Cartmel Valley

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