Gilpin Lodge Country House Hotel, Crook Road, Windermere, Lake District

Why Windermere's finest is worth a 500-mile round trip for our reviewer

There are not many things I'd rather do than sit by a hot fire with a cold G&T. The weather outside is filthy and it's a rare night off from domestic duty, so… bring on the Hendrick's. Admittedly, I've had to travel 250 miles for my quiet night by the fire, but it's been worth the trip.

Gilpin Lodge, at the southern end of the Lake District, is a well-established hotel, run by the Cunliffe family for 25 years. I would say, if it were a person, that it's comfortable in its own skin. Yes, new-generation managers Barney and Zoe, son and daughter-in-law Cunliffe, have brought in a few modish extras – such as a hot tub at the edge of the lake, and smoked popcorn as a bar snack – but the overall air is of a contented, conventional club.

There is nothing wrong with that. Hotels and restaurants off the beaten track must give the guest what they want and in comfort. And while I'm sitting by the fire, nursing a drink and reading the menu, all thoughts of the challenging dishes of London's most fashionable new restaurants (ox-cheek doughnuts, bacon panna cotta) slip away.

For here are crab and lobster, venison and Gloucester Old Spot, Lancashire leeks and Goosnargh chicken. A whole charcoal-roasted chicken crown and leg stuffed with truffle and smoked bacon, to be precise. Roast chicken is my desert-island dish. So, although the £58 four-course menu has plenty of tempting classics, it has to be chicken. The long-suffering Mr M concurs, which is lucky, because it would've been embarrassing to order the two-person poultry for one.

The menu helpfully mentions that if you'd prefer a dish cooked more plainly, just to say the word. Come, come; I can't see why the newish young head chef Daniel Grigg would do anything to dumb down a plump bird glossy and juicy from the Big Green Egg charcoal grill (oh, how I wish I had one of these special spendy ovens). Just cleave it in half and bring it to me, man…

Gilpin is one of those hotels where you order your food while nibbling a canapé and wishing you'd won the Lottery so you could roam the country, from one garlanded country-house hotel to another. It means we are led to one of the four little dining-rooms just before the starters come out, rather than having to sit mentally placing the financial circumstances of our fellow diners. Clever, the separate rooms, too. If the hotel's quiet, you wouldn't notice and if you're staying a few nights, you could have a different vista each time.

At our table, the Atlantic spider crab with crushed peas, roasted shell oil and pea mayonnaise, is a thing of beauty, in a glass bowl with a vibrant green crush of pea beneath. A Parmesan disc on top threatens to overwhelm the subtle richness of the crab, but there's skill in the shell oil and the wobbly, scented mayonnaise. Mr M's crisp little salt-cod fritters are greaseless and fluffy, while just-pickled, blushing onion rings and radish are punchy. The accompanying parsley purée got lost along the way.

I'm not a big fan of waiterly flourishes at table – thank the lord that cloche "reveals" seem to have died a death – so the tableside carving of the chicken is not a thrill. My main concern is that I get my fair share. I needn't have worried – and there's triple-cooked chips and creamed spinach that has a good whack of nutmeg on the side. The chicken is succulent and with real flavour (enhanced but not nuked by the bacon and the truffle), crisp skin and gaminess in the legmeat.

I've resisted sommelier Ziggy Grinberg's exhortations to go into and study the wine cellar (OK, I peeked, there are more than 200 bottles – standing upright – begging attention) and had a Sancerre and a Beaujolais from glasses paired with my dishes. Sometimes I don't even want to think about reading a big old wine list.

There's a grandfather clock next to the table (this is old-school styling, all crisp white linen and candles), mercifully not marking the time I've spent eating. I forgo pudding for some excellent British cheeses with treacle bread and quince jelly and go and lie down in a darkened room like a python that's eaten a goat.

The next day I gnaw on a juicy drumstick from my doggy bag on the train home and set up an online National Lottery account. A girl can dream.

7.5/10

Gilpin Lodge country house hotel Crook Road, Windermere, Lake District, tel: 01539 488 818 Lunch and dinner daily. About £115 for two, including drinks

More lake luxuries

The Samling Ambleside Road, Windermere, Cumbria, tel: 01539 431 922

A beautiful getaway, this romantic lake-view country-house hotel has emerged from the former Von Essen empire stronger than ever

Lyzzick Hall

Underskiddaw, Keswick, Cumbria, tel: 01768 772 277

The wine list – a real treat for Iberian fans – hints at the heritage of the family who've long owned this hotel, where the cooking comes with a distinctive Mediterranean influence

Hipping Hall

Cowan Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale, Yorkshire, tel: 01524 271 187

This romantic 15th-century hall maintains a low profile but has amazing standards, twinned with relatively reasonable prices

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Voices
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
News
i100
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power