Holbeck Ghyll Hotel, Holbeck Lane, Windermere, Cumbria - Reviews - Food + Drink - The Independent

Holbeck Ghyll Hotel, Holbeck Lane, Windermere, Cumbria

Built as a rich man's folly – it was the Earl of Lonsdale's hunting lodge in the 1880s – Holbeck Ghyll is a gorgeous country house hotel with a stupendous view over Lake Windermere. Across the glassily calm lake stand the Langdales Pikes and, beyond them, the snow-capped peaks of the Cumbrian mountains to the north-west. Inside, it's like a dream of posh, Country Living-mag rusticity, from the blazing log fire and the Parker Knoll chairs in the lobby to the woven Bergerac furniture and the biographies of Tory politicians in the sitting-room. They bring you a dry martini and a leather-clad menu as you sit in the window seat thinking a) this is ridiculously old-fashioned, and b) this is sooooo blissful.

There's a gentleman's club feel to the dining-room, with its polished oak panelling (the whole hotel is a tribute to the late Victorian arts-and-crafts movement), its sconce lamps and disdain for tablecloths. The curtains are drawn across the bow window where the management obligingly set up a lunch table for Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon when they were filming BBC2's The Trip, Michael Winterbottom's quirky record of their two-man gastro-tour of Cumbria.

The one and only bum note is the laughable coal-effect electric fire in the grate, a throwback to the stylish days of 1965. You wonder if the cooking will have changed since those days – and are not wholly reassured by the tray of amuse-bouches. Here was rillettes of chicken liver, a mushroom crostini, a duck boudin with plum jam and a cream-cheese-'n'-garlic something-or-other in a sharp pastry crown. They tasted OK, but lacked excitement, as if they were the last canapés on the tray at a lunchtime reception, cunningly recycled at dinner. A secondary amuse, of pumpkin and gruyère soup, was creamy, frothy and densely textured, the cheese giving the boring pumpkin a welcome kick.

Angie's langoustine salad with celeriac and lobster remoulade offered a near-perfect crayfish, beautifully cooked, fresh, moist and juicy, but eccentrically served on tepid roundels of boiled potato. She looked for traces of lobster (which of course would go with langoustine like a horse and carriage through the taste buds) but found it had been wholly subsumed in the tender ropes of celeriac. It seemed a shame.

My scallops, roasted rather than pan-fried, seemed to possess a yummily grown-up quality, some way removed from the seared-baby's-bottom scallop texture with which we are over-familiar. They came with a spiced cauliflower, apple and raisin purée, which seems to be one of the head chef David McLaughlin's signature dishes, and very fine it was. If you'd told me before dinner that scallops and apple were being yoked together in the same dish, I would have snorted with disapproval. But some citric alchemy was at work here, and I loved the combination.

From a long and thoughtfully selected wine list, I chose a 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape and tasted it. It seemed, at first sip, a little thin and begrudging. "Don't worry," said our charming wine waiter, Stephan, "This one'll whack you across the face a bit later on." He was dead right too. I like a bit of aggression in my Rhône wines.

The Ghyll (how one keeps re-inventing it on one's lips as "Holbeck Grill") is a bit of a shrine to hefty cuts of meat and equally hefty French reductions, offset by teensy-tiny, dolls'-house vegetables. My best end of lamb was perfectly cooked, pink but firm and tasty, served on a purée of shallots and surrounded by tiny mushrooms and even tinier carrots in a rosemary jus. It was a lovely re-thinking of the Sunday-lunchtime classic and worked marvellously.

Angie's daube of beef with pomme purée, root vegetables and girolles, though not an enormous plateful, was butched up with a dense wine jus that lined one's oesophagus and stomach walls like anaglypta wallpaper. The puréed potato concealed unannounced truffles. The girolles were dark, dense and threatening little French muggers. This was a stonking dish, drenched in flavours, that would have defeated a Hawkshead trencherman, let alone a slender blonde from London. It was wonderful, but it was just too much.

We had no room for pudding, but I couldn't resist the crème brûlée with apple sorbet. Its blow-torched roof was as thin and light as a wisp, the cream itself divinely supple – and the final grace-note was a trio of cooked apple slices, as frangible as potato crisps. The chef had marinaded the slices in lemon, sugar and water before cooking them in a low oven for an hour. That's the attention to detail that won Mr McLaughlin a Michelin star. And if he is slightly too keen on purées-with-everything for my liking, he's a real find. So is pretty well everything about this beguiling hotel. That Earl of Lonsdale must have known he was on to something when he bought it 130 years ago.

Holbeck Ghyll Hotel, Holbeck Lane, Windermere, Cumbria (015394 32375)

Food 4 stars
Ambience 5 stars
Service 4 stars

About £120 for two, with wine. Tipping policy: "No service charge. All tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Choice of Cumbria

The Samling

This gorgeous hotel has a fabulous restaurant – the Goosnargh duck and the Hawkshead venison are deservedly popular.

Ambleside Road, Windermere (01539 431 922)

The Punch Bowl Inn

The glazed Lancashire cheese soufflé (£6.50) and sirloin steak (£18.95) are typical of the hearty food at this impressive inn.

Crosthwaite, Lyth Valley (015395 68237)


Chef-patron Simon Rogan grows his ingredients on his nearby farm. The 12-course dinner for two(£160) is legendary.

Cavendish Street, Cartmel (015395 36362)

Suggested Topics
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
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
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    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...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    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
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week