There are a thousand ways to fall in love with England, even if you already live here. Classical, poetic ones like indulging in an afternoon tea on a rainy day, taking a stroll on the cliffs of Dover, sleeping in an adorable cottage in Dorset. More unusual ones too like paddle boarding on the Thames, foraging on a beach. My latest adventure, a roadtrip to Scotland with Silke (editor of Happiness and things), took me through the Lake District. I had forgotten how gorgeous that region was… I wish I were a painter to just sit somewhere for hours and capture the perfect reflections on the water, the vibrant touches the wild flowers add, the bridges over the rivers, the cheerful grey of the stone there. Sadly, I’m terrible at even sketching so I let my Canon snap away instead… Let me show you a little paradise I stayed at: Linthwaite House.
Just imagine a gorgeous house, Tudor inspired, sitting on a hill, set in a 14 acres park. The brochure presents it as a Boutique Hotel but it does have the wonderful vibe of a country house with an added splash of colour here and there. Our room was indeed luxurious with extra focus on comfort (when you’ve been driving 5 hours, a good bed with perfect, slightly starched sheets matter), a desk, a spacious bathroom (with both shower and bath as well as Molton brown toiletries), a sofa reminding me of a Tweed pattern, embroidered cushions. But what wowed me most was the private garden right in front of our main window, complete with a pond, ferns, irises, St John’s Wort. I sat there a while, a mug of steaming Earl Grey in hand, absolutely delighted.
Silke and I decided to go exploring. We found a terrace with deckchairs to enjoy the stunning view, little paths in the meadows, lilies blooming in a carefully designed pond and, after going through a pine tree forest, a much larger one where guests can go wild swimming… Although you could simply enjoy sitting by the summer house there and ask for an afternoon tea in this idyllic setting. That alone is worth visiting!
It was almost dinner time so we slowly walked back to the house, absorbing the beauty of the landscape as we did so. Guest are invited to relax in the lounge half an hour before their arranged booking and indeed it is a clever idea. It’s a more comfortable place to enjoy your first drink, admiring the antiques around but also the signed artwork from visiting artists. You also get to read the menu quietly, place your order and only move to the dining room when it’s ready to be served. It makes you realise how more rushed the normal restaurant experience is. Added bonus, you room is only 5 mn away, no driving involved so you can have a couple glasses of wine. We decided on cocktails instead and cheered to how wonderful life can be with a Damson Twist (Cumbria gin, elderflower, soda, mint) and an Another rainy day (Lake District vodka, elderflower, lemon, soda). Our waiter also brought the cutest amuse-bouche to whet our appetite: crunchy cones filled with a celery mash and topped with hazelnuts…
Linthwaite House’s restaurant may not have a Michelin star yet but it definitely is on the right path. I have been to so many places who present wonderful plates but offer no wow effect taste wise. It’s good but not as exciting as the description nor the mise en scène led you to believe. You get the best of two worlds here – exceptionally good ingredients (the meat, oh, the meat!), such beautiful dishes you instantly turn into a food paparazzi and how could I say it better than emotions translated into emulsions, velvety purées and sauces… In a nutshell: you run out of adjectives very quickly so conversation simply gets replaced by ecstatic smiles.
It all started with a leek soup served in an espresso cup (and as intense as a good coffee can be) with a crunchy potato croquette on the side. The service would prove impeccable – you get the time to chat a little between each selection, sip on your wine (we chose a Sancerre blanc – as with a Bordeaux, you can never get wrong with this) but just enough to regain some appetite. The starters proved memorable: venison carpaccio with pickled beetroot and blueberry jam for me and the quintessence of summer for Silke, tomato gazpacho sorbet, heirloom tomatoes, a touch of garlic and parmesan).
Followed unexpected associations: the braised lamb was matched to tarragon, turnip and a little liquorice, intriguing enough for you to want another forkful. The roasted pork fillet, with melt in the mouth belly, came with a vanilla mash (simply addictive), sauerkraut, apple and coriander… Creative indeed!
I won’t make friends saying this so do remember I’m French. And a foodie with a sweet tooth. British cuisine has come a long way the last 15 years but desserts usually remain a weakness. Understand there is a limit to the number of layer or chocolate cakes, crumbles, Eton Messes and crêmes brulées I want to eat. Linthwaite House proved to be an exception. Now the idea of a cheesecake might seem classical… Yet this one is made not with cream cheese, my friend, but with Brillat Savarin which gives it a particular creaminess and a wonderful character. Add strawberries, sorbet, micro basil leaves : need I add more? It did not stop me envying Silke’s choice, a deconstructed parfait presented as a crescent: jelly, fresh fruit, black pepper meringue, tossed oats, honey and yogurt sorbet. Nirvanesque. I still can’t believe a 4 course meal only costs £58.00!
The gentleman at the nearby table asked for the cheeseboard. At the first bite, his face simply lit up – we forgot all reason and followed his example. Well done, Linthwaite House for proving than Great Britain can do as well as France cheese wise (although so few people realise!). The Lancashire Bomb, Baby Berkswell, Tunworth, Swaledale Blue and my favourite, the Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher were out of this world.
Be warned – you will literally roll back to your room. Gravity does take its toll!
It’s the kind of place you love waking up in too. Not rushing, staying in bed with your first cup of coffee, catching the morning news, taking the time for a long breakfast (they do a Poached smoked haddock with rarebit glaze by the way)… Just enjoying being lazy, isn’t it one of the luxuries in life these days? We indulged in a little eccentricity before leaving: playing croquet wearing the flashy coloured wellies available to the guests, even though it was 23 degrees outside.
The problem, though, is that there is to much to do and enjoy at Linthwaite House that you kind of forget about the whole region around… Make sure you stay a few days!
>> Linthwaite House <<
>> Happiness and Things wrote about her stay at Linthwaite House here – more escapism, more pics! <<