Restaurant review - Sharrow Bay Country House, Ullswater
PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 September 2014
Gastronomic history records that Sharrow Bay was the place where the sticky toffee pudding was invented.
And very nice it is too - lighter, subtler, less glutinous and swimming in a sauce less cloying than the belly-filling imitators to be found on every pub grub menu now.
But Francis Coulson’s Famous and Original Icky Sticky Toffee Pudding is not the only star of the Sharrow Bay menu, with Colin Akrigg and Mark Teasdale - both billed as head chef - proving that too many cooks do not necessarily spoil the broth.
There is a £75-per-head dinner menu, and a £95-per-head tasting menu. We stuck with the cheaper option and began with seared scallops, roast asparagus, crispy pancetta and a lemon grass sauce, the bite and boldness of the pancetta elevating rather than overwhelming the scallops and subtle sauce. Across the table, dressed crab with scallop mousse came with a diaphanous pink grapefruit jelly and dressed leaves.
A fillet of grey mullet arrived atop a luscious risotto which was fine dining’s answer to mushy peas. But the soup option was the real star - celeriac and pear whipped into a heavenly, creamy half-foam with blue cheese and walnut salsa. More please!
On to the mains, and a fillet of Scottish Angus beef came perfectly aged and perfectly medium-cooked. Equally impressive was a supporting cast of truffle and herb gnocchi, madeira sauce and a wild mushroom fricassée whose earthy flavours were a delight.
My fellow diner’s best end of Herdwick lamb also came with intriguing accompaniments, including a blob of deep and intense-tasting black pudding and braised red cabbage so sweet and zingy that it was perhaps the best thing on the plate.
The kitchen’s own bread impressed greatly - particularly a curry-flavoured roll - and the Sharrow Bay wine list is award-winningly good.
Our second night in the restaurant revealed some other stars of the menu. A starter of smoked duck salad with glazed poached pear, Cashel Blue cheese and walnut dressing was an inspired combination. A soufflé of stilton, spinach and roasted onion was feather-light. And that celeriac and pear soup was so good we just had to give it an encore.
Sharrow Bay is by Ullswater at Penrith, Cumbria CA10 2LZ. Tel 01768 486301 or visit www.sharrowbay.co.uk