It is always a good time to visit the elegant Regency built, Rothay Manor, in the heart of the Lake District. Sat between the western fringes of Ambleside and the eastern shores of Lake Windermere, the hotel, as a culinary destination, is hot news.
Dan McGeorge, grabbed the culinary spotlight, triumphing with his “Give a Dog a Bone” dessert on the BBC’s Great British Menu quest for culinary creativity. Celebrating the first four pioneering guide dogs for the blind, from way back in 1931, McGeorge encased a miso caramel centre in chocolate mousse and served it with miso honeycomb, salted ice cream and yuzu gel. Diners at Rothay Manor are thankful that McGeorge abandoned his law studies to train as a chef.
Rothay Manor delivers for all palates
Privately owned by Jamie and Jenna Shails, the Manor House, a hotel since 1936, has a deserved reputation for fine dining, receiving three AA rosettes in recognition of the skills of McGeorge’s team.
For an idyllic spot for a pre-dinner drink, Rothay Manor’s mature gardens provide a panorama of bluebells, blooming rhododendron, flourishing magnolia and towering trees: the epitome of the English country garden.
When we move inside for dinner, McGeorge immediately shows his passion for Japanese flavours with the canapés: miniature wasabi roses top duck on a lightly toasted brioche finger. Completing the trio is a diminutive cornet of mackerel mousse and the lightest, the smallest of cheese-filled soufflés.
Guests either opt for McGeorge’s three course a la carte menu or his Great British tasting menu continuing the theme of his televised success. In fact, the three a la carte courses extends into Michelin star territory. Miles Cornish, Master of Wines, has selected a wine to match with every dish.
As guests sit in the wood-panelled Regency dining room, lit by contemporary chandeliers, a gastronomic journey unravels which is far more than three courses unravels. A choice of home-made breads and butters is accompanied by an amuse-bouche of goat’s cheese and a variety of tiny tomatoes decorated with delicate white garlic flowers.
After the main course there is the very French option of a cheese board, which in truth is more like an aromatic cheese market stall with its goat cheeses, accompanying chutney and jams. Then it was a pre-dessert of scattered icy snowdrops of apple on a delicate blackberry sorbet.
Smart country-check waistcoated staff promptly deliver the dishes with instructions from McGeorge on how best to savour them. “Chef recommends the oyster first,” says the waiter of an oyster on ice accompanying my stone bass. Its fresh rich succulent maritime flavour sets the tone for the fish. Again, McGeorge introduces Oriental notes with a blob of jade green wasabi which fully understands its role, compliantly complimenting the fish rather than dominating.
McGeorge’s menu is understated, intriguingly mysterious as exemplified by the sparse description of desserts: Strawberry, Chocolate, Apricot and Peach Melba it enigmatically suggests. A mere few words, – woodruff, rose, sorrel – accompanying the Cherry, are no more than a cryptic crossword clue. In reality, the Peach Melba is a glazed spherical bomb of a pud with inner magic of almond sponge, raspberry sorbet and vanilla as well as the peaches.
“Chef recommends you crack it with your spoon, like a boiled egg,” prompts the waitresses as I hesitate to destroy such perfection.
For most of the guests, the creative quality of the food is a major draw. But Rothay Manor’s 19 rooms are a supremely comfortable base for Lake District exploration and relaxation. A variety of many greens – forest, moss and sage to name but a few – help bring the beauty of the grounds into the spacious rooms. Framed vintage postcards alongside black-and-white illustrations from 19th century Lakeland books and magazines help create a sense of continuity and heritage. In the public areas, the decor with discrete greys and thin stripes, brings a light contemporary take on the original Regency style.
Within a short walk of Ambleside and the eastern tip of Lake Windermere, Rothay Manor is well-positioned. Whether you’ve been biking, hiking, sailing or wild swimming, Dan McGeorge’s menus, breakfast or dinner, are highlights of the day.
Prices for two people staying in a classic room on a B&B basis start from £200 per night.
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