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

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable