Short break - The Ryebeck Hotel, Bowness-on-Windermere
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 June 2016
Matthew E. Maddock
This Lake District hotel is going to be a big name as word gets around of its excellent culinary offering and hospitality, writes Ray King
Spring is a magical season in the Lake District. The lakes and mountains of England’s most beautiful landscape are inspiration for the Romantic poets and beloved by millions who appreciate not only outdoor pursuits and scenic splendour, but perhaps the highest concentration of top notch hospitality in the country.
Lakeland is the home of the country house hotel; not perhaps on the palatial scale of former aristocratic stately houses, but the once-upon-a-time homes from home built by Victorian and Edwardian gentlemen, warm and welcoming, set in delightful gardens and enjoying sublime views. These are the charming places adept at combining cosy relaxation with culinary excellence; Lake District hosts have been doing it for years.
The Ryebeck Hotel is not yet as well-known as some of its neighbours but the key word here is ‘yet’. For what was once the Fayrer Garden House Hotel has been rebranded and refurbished by Andrew Wildsmith whose Hipping Hall near Kirkby Lonsdale is feted for its luxurious accommodation and three Rosette restaurant. Wildsmith, who gained a PhD in Chemistry at Cambridge then eschewed a career in pharmaceuticals, has launched his third property, Forest Side, Grasmere, a stunning Victorian mansion undergone a £4m transformation. One might say he has every confidence in the Lakes’ future tourism.
We arrived at The Ryebeck for a two-night stay on a crisp, sunny afternoon with Windermere shimmering silver across the gardens and pasture and the Old Man of Coniston’s snow-capped summit peeping over the forested horizon on the far side of the lake. We were taken by the period charm of the hall with its beamed ceiling and solid oak staircase leading to our en suite bedroom - one of six of the Ryebeck’s 26 rooms to have been beautifully refurbished so far - boasting all modern comforts and commanding a panoramic vista over the lake and beyond. The remaining rooms will get similar tasteful treatment this year.
We relaxed in the cosy lounge anticipating dinner. The joy here is that new head chef Dominic Clarke presents not one menu but two - the Ryebeck menu, a culinary adventure reflecting his travels, notably to the Orient and the Classic menu featuring the best of modern British cooking with sublime ingredients. Both, we were to discover on consecutive evenings, demonstrated a talent at work in the kitchen.
The terrace dining room housed in a marble-floored conservatory overlooking Windermere is a superb setting. On the first night we opted for his signature creations: finest quality tuna to cook on a rock heated to some 300 degrees and served with shiitake parfait, kombu, kimchi, wasabi and soy; sticky pigs cheek, apple and celeriac; turbot with cauliflower, bok choi and smoked bacon dashi and Cartmel Valley duck breast with beetroot, tenderstem broccoli and pineapple jam. All of it was well-judged and delicious.
The second night we chose from the Classic menu - albeit with a second helping of that sublime tuna starter - and thoroughly enjoyed chicken wing Kiev with potato waffle, black garlic, sweetcorn and mushroom then shared an absolutely fantastic roast rack of lamb served with mini shepherd’s pies, dauphinoise and Provencal vegetables. Desserts were exceptional too.
During the intervening day we motored the entire circumference of England’s largest lake, visiting Newby Bridge, Coniston and Ambleside before heading on to poetically picturesque Grasmere - unjustly struggling after the winter rains - to buy a tin of Sarah Nelson’s Original and Celebrated Grasmere Gingerbread - the finest in the world - stroll round St Oswald’s romantic churchyard and pay a fleeting visit to Andrew Wildsmith’s recently opened Forest Side about which we’ll be hearing much more of once the awards season gets under way proper.
The Ryebeck Hotel is in Lyth Valley Road, Bowness-on-Windermere. Cumbria. LA23 3JP . Reservations: 015394 88195.
Three course dinner menus £45 per person available daily from 6:30pm - 9pm. Includes complimentary canapes, bread and petit fours.
Afternoon tea from £19.50, with a glass of Prosecco £23.50.
Sunday Lunch: Three courses £24.50