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Lancashire Life Luncheon - Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa, Windermere

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 June 2018

Wood Ember Roasted Heritage Beetroot;
Leagrams organic goats curd, Sichuan flower pepper, wild rocket and toasted pine nuts

Wood Ember Roasted Heritage Beetroot; Leagrams organic goats curd, Sichuan flower pepper, wild rocket and toasted pine nuts

Archant

The Lake District’s new World Heritage status was the spur behind a £19 million project to turn a landmark hotel into a luxury resort.

The Rum RoomThe Rum Room

With World Heritage site status in the bag, the Lake District is now under pressure to deliver world class facilities for the expected influx of visitors. And that doesn’t come cheaply.

It’s a challenge that hoteliers Simon and Tim Berry met with considerable relish and, you suspect, a sleepless night or two. The end result, after spending an eye-watering £19 million, is the total transformation of the Low Wood Bay resort and spa, an old favourite overlooking Windermere.

Lancashire Life enjoyed one of its monthly luncheons at this venue, part of English Lakes Hotels, and guests agreed that the remarkable transformation had been worth every penny.

‘We spent a long time looking at what we were doing here and, because of the area’s likely designation as a World Heritage site, we decided the area needed an exciting world-class resort, a place that offered an extensive range of leisure activities as well as first class dining,’ said Simon, whose family has owned Low Wood since the 1950s.

The Rum RoomThe Rum Room

Low Wood Bay, which sits in 65 acres, has been a landmark for generations. The oldest part dates from 1620 and there was a working farm there until the early 1950s. The old hotel was ravaged by fire in 1856, the damage so severe that much was written off. In its place, the owners built a hotel in the Grand European style with echoes of Swiss architecture.

It was a time when guests arrived by lake steamers or via the railway, making the final stage of journey by horse and carriage through a central archway. ‘We wanted to recreate that sense of arrival,’ said Simon, referring to the sweeping driveway that takes guests to the swish new reception.

While it’s true that the driveway is impressive, perhaps the real star is the new Blue Smoke on the Bay restaurant, a name inspired by a highly unusual piece of kit used to cook much of the food. This stunning double grill, specially built in Birmingham from a Spanish design, is the culinary equivalent of a large log burner requiring the kitchen team to keep it topped up with fuel. In an open kitchen, it offers a real sense of drama.

‘We wanted to create a high-end experience in a less formal, more relaxed atmosphere with inventive, exciting food but without the MasterChef froth,’ said Simon, who cut his teeth in the kitchens of London’s Savoy Hotel.

‘It requires a high degree of skill because you can’t regulate the temperature. There is no “on” or “off” buttons, although you have some control by raising and lowering the grill plates.’

Another factor is the dryness of the wood and the tree it comes from. It’s mostly a mix of alder and oak from north Lancashire although they have been experimenting with other woods, such as olive.

‘Cooking over wood definitely affects the flavour and using different varieties creates subtle changes. It’s not that everything you eat has a smoky flavour but you can tell that it has been cooked in a different way. It’s great fun and at some stage we might run courses on cooking with wood.’ The potential for quality cooking on this unusual device was ably demonstrated during our luncheon party.

As well as lunch and dinner, they will also be putting together a special brunch menu to fill what they believe is a gap in a growing market.

The interior design of Blue Smoke is by Sarah and Gareth Humphreys, a couple who have worked with the company on previous projects as well as with high profile customers including Marco Pierre White.

They created a contemporary design that doesn’t look like it will date. It is verging on the industrial chic but without the starkness of exposed steel pipes and brickwork. Curved edge tables and wall panelling based on flooring products are softened by the seating, a combination of soft leather banquettes and Lloyd Loom chairs. This part of the project cost just over £1million and it includes a rum and bourbon room that can be sectioned off for private dining for up to 24 people. Outside there are three fire pits for al fresco meals. Ceramics from Lupton potters Siobham and Martin Miles-Moore, who have featured in Lancashire Life for their work at Hipping Hall, have created new tableware incorporating wood ash glazes. Of course, the spending didn’t stop at Blue Smoke. The slightly more formal Windermere restaurant, an old favourite with seating for 160 and outstanding lake views, has been refreshed but the lion’s share has been spent on the creation of 133 sumptuous bedrooms and suits, a mix of upgraded and new build. This has involved the construction of a luxury accommodation block, complete with its own private bar, club lounge and roof garden.

Another important phase has been the new spa, complete with an outdoor heated infinity pool, sauna, steam room and Canadian hot tubs with views over the lake and mountains. The extensive fitness suite will also feature state of the art equipment and an express salon.

‘This stunning building has been here for over 300 years and this is the biggest change in its history,’ said Simon. ‘We had a soft launch in October and we’ve been taking it slowly but the feedback has been phenomenal.

‘We wanted to make something truly special, bringing modern, top quality facilities to the area but without

compromising the integrity or charm of this historic building. We really feel we have achieved that.’

Menu

The Starter:

Wood ember roasted heritage beetroot, Leagrams organic goat curd, Sichuan flower pepper, wild rocket and toasted pine nuts

Main Course:

Tasting plate of hot wood smoked salmon, charred fennel, mango with chilli salsa; marinated chicken breast with spring onion and coriander salsa; bricklayer steak, pounded then marinated for 24 hours in smoked paprika

Dessert:

Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Chocolate Mousse served with vanilla ice cream and sticky brioche

Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa

Ambleside Rd, Windermere LA23 1LP

0333 220 3105

englishlakes.co.uk/low-wood-bay

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