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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
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

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments