The multi-million pound development at The Samling in Windermere
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 May 2018
A series of projects looks like turning a very good Lakeland hotel into a great one
World Heritage site status means the Lake District is now a global player on the international tourism trail. The next challenge is ensuring the expected influx of visitors have a world class experience, encouraging them to return and tell their friends.
That is a challenge being embraced by the team at The Samling, an award-winning hotel overlooking Windermere.
The owner – like Victor Kiam, he liked the hotel so much he bought it – has invested millions in creating what certainly looks every inch a world class hotel.
It has always had an enviable reputation for food and hospitality, but recent changes mean it has upped the offering to the extent where it must now be one of the most luxurious hotels outside London.
A series of projects designed to turn a good hotel into a great one have been completed and the centre-piece has to be the 48-seat dining room. This extension, with a brilliantly equipped kitchen beneath, employed natural materials that, from the outside, fit the Lakeland landscape. From the inside, floor-to-ceiling windows provide guests with Lakeland views to rival any dining room.
To ensure the food is every bit as memorable as the scenery, The Samling has recruited a new head chef and it’s a mark of Samling’s ambition that the man they chose was in charge of the kitchen at the two Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park in Devon.
They also recruited some hugely experienced front-of-house people from Sharrow Bay at Ullswater, including the general manager Oliver Smith. ‘I spent four years at Sharrow Bay and we achieved a lot but there are so many exciting opportunities at The Samling that it was impossible to resist,’ he said. ‘We have an owner with many ambitions, a fantastic new sommelier to develop the wine list, a great new chef and 12 refurbished rooms. This is an opportunity we are all relishing.
‘We have some fantastic hotels in the Lake District and, with World Heritage status, that’s a good thing because it gets the message out there. But The Samling is very special. It sits proudly in the elite group in the Lake District.
The old dining room was small and non-residents struggled to get a table. That has now changed. ‘And it’s a wonderful restaurant – I’ve travelled the world and it’s the best I’ve seen… quite incredible,’ added Oliver. The public rooms are luxurious, combining the classic and the contemporary with alarmingly light coloured carpets for the Lakes and modern works of art adorning the walls. It’s opulent without being overbearing and the style of service appears efficient but relaxed. Not far from the kitchen, there is a very impressive wine cellar where guests might like to while away those rare rainy days by getting acquainted with some of the outstanding bottles stored there. There is also the opportunity to try some of the high end vintages thanks to the purchase of a Coravin, which allows the sommelier to draw a glass of wine from a bottle and then reseal the cork.
The 12 bedrooms have been fully refurbished to an exceptionally high standard during the two-year improvement project. There are standard and luxury doubles and a range of suites. For instance, the Kentmere suite is set over three floors, with a ground floor bathroom which features Crema Marfil marble with a large sunken bath and a separate walk in shower.
The sitting room is located up a short flight of stairs and is decorated in neutrals contrasted with rich, navy fabrics. There is a large window with stunning Lake views and the top level has a beautiful bedroom with a super-king size bed.
Diners at The Samling can expect a modern British style of cuisine with an injection of Asian flavours, particularly from Japan.
Head chef Peter worked in the Lakes from 2009 to 2012 at Linthwaite and the Punchbowl.
‘I absolutely loved my time up here,’ he said. ‘Gidleigh Park was a stunning place but my love of the Lake District was a big attraction.’
Peter promises originality in his menus. ‘I’m aiming for flavours that people will not have had before. The owners want it to be a world class destination so they have given me everything, within reason, I need to do just that. It really is a dream job – the support I’ve had is amazing.’
He has worked with several of the people in the team before – they are tried and trusted. ‘It’s traditionally difficult to recruit but we have a waiting list of people who want to work here,’ he said. As well as a Chef’s Table in the kitchen for diners who like the theatre of high end cooking, there is also a well equipped development kitchen to produce new dishes and the 60-odd acre of land contain a kitchen garden where progressive growing techniques produce much of the produce used by the kitchen.
One interesting innovation that also gives The Samling an international profile is an exchange scheme which allows the garden team, working with the chefs, to swap seeds with kitchen gardens across the world allowing them to grow the best plants used by restaurants and hotels in many countries. They just need to keep Peter Rabbit and pals out of the veg patch.
You get the impression from the team at The Samling that ‘Michelin’ and ‘Star’ are not words they bandy around for fear of jinxing their luck. But you also feel it’s only a matter of time.