I'm still buzzing after our dinner at Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside, over a week ago. We had planned to just visit Old Stamp House and maybe have a light tea in a pub later on that evening. Then I got a message from someone in the industry recommending it and he really knows his onions.
Well travelled, knowledgeable food blogger Cumbriafoodie raved about it too, so I knew we'd have to try and get a reservation even if it meant doing two taster menus in one day and breaking our budget. The search for better and better restaurants becomes like a ridiculous never ending obsession and the more it continues, the less satisfied you become with most places closer to home.
Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds, it was the most exciting find of the year for us. This is interesting in itself, as in some ways they're polar opposites in style. But we loved them both.
If you put a gun to my head and asked me what I'd thought about foraging before this meal, I'd have said that in all honesty, I couldn't care less. I'm just bothered about what's on my plate and how delicious it is. But listening to head chef James Cross talk so passionately about his early morning foraging trips out on beaches and forests, it would take a complete cynic not to be impressed. This 'North European' style has a real emphasis on using as much quality local product and foraging where possible. World famous chef Rene Redzepi has turned this into an all encompassing philosophy.
James has worked (sometimes 100 hour weeks he told me) at Noma and at Per Se in New York. Both feature highly on foodies bucket lists as I'm sure you know. And that experience brings so much knowledge, work ethic and passion which is very evident when it comes to his style of cooking.
A large part of the whole experience was chatting with the staff who were so friendly and extremely knowledgeable, especially manager George Norrie. Honestly, these guys together in my humble opinion could go far. This is just the beginning for them.
Raw and Cured Norwegian Salmon, Tartare, Yoghurt, Rye, Wood Sorrel, so fresh and clean and delicate, the quality of the raw salmon really shines through. The product really is king at this place with an obsessive attention to detail and a demand for the very highest quality. You might expect every decent restaurant is like that but it's not always the case.
The mushroom was so beautiful, soft and full of deep woodland flavour, with a rich sticky, meaty sauce, and the duck egg too. Wow! One of the finest dishes we've eaten all year.
Strangely, the Aged Saddleback Pork dish next, was a disappointment. The texture was all wrong, too tough with very little flavour. The only miss-step of the night. But they've not been open that long, it's still a very high hit rate.
Again though, it wasn't just the wonderful product and food, it was their infectious enthusiasm and knowledge which played such a huge part to the enjoyment of the meal as a whole and sets this place apart for us.
We finished off a very memorable night with a light, pleasant Meadowsweet Mousse, semi dried plums, greengage ice. With a taster menu, I'm happier with one dessert rather than three or four that for me are superfluous.
It would be no exaggeration to say that after this meal we believe that it may well happen. The passion, talent and knowledge along with the head spinning drive of James and George will take them a long way I think. Three of those dishes will stay long in my memory, the scallop, the beef and the cep. These really were up there with the finest dishes we've eaten the year. This is seriously high quality cooking. I told you I was still buzzing about it didn't I?
To see more photos click here.
An article about foraging and Lake road Kitchen here.