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

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Goalkeeping howler allows Man City to scrap a draw – but Premier League title is Liverpool's to lose
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal