<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

The renaissance of Rothay Manor in Ambleside

PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 May 2017

A dish at Rothay Manor Photo: Polly A Baldwin

A dish at Rothay Manor Photo: Polly A Baldwin

Polly A Baldwin

Ambleside’s Rothay Manor has new owners with new ideas and a chef who is creating some culinary masterpieces. Roger Borrell reports.

Chef Brandon Shepherd at work in the kitchen Photo: Polly A Baldwin Chef Brandon Shepherd at work in the kitchen Photo: Polly A Baldwin

I sat in the dining room at Rothay Manor waiting for my breakfast to arrive, wondering if I could pluck up the courage to ask for some dripping for my toast.

Let me explain. I hadn’t suddenly been transported back to the days of ration books when a dollop of dripping was all that stood between me and another dose of rickets.

No, I was dwelling on the previous night’s dinner when the head chef Brandon Shepherd had conjured up a meal which would have given any restaurant in the north a run for its money. But the thing that really stuck in my mind was being offered not just butter to spread on the delicious, freshly made bread, but a little pot of dripping.

For the uninitiated – and vegetarians should look away now – this is the unctuous fat that oozes from roasted meat and, when cold, is wonderful spread onto bread. Just mentioning it sets off a claxon in the offices of the Food Police. But, by heck, it does taste good.

The dining room at Rothay Manor Photo: Polly A Baldwin The dining room at Rothay Manor Photo: Polly A Baldwin

We all get a little jaded eating the same stuff in restaurants so finding something new, but with a nod to times past, was a good way to start what was a memorable dinner full of very pleasing surprises.

This Ambleside hotel, built as a family home in 1825, has been going through a renaissance since being bought by a hard working (some may say foolhardy) young couple called Jenna and Jamie Shail. For decades it had been run by the Nixon family who had a loyal following.

After successful jobs in finance and fashion, the Shails opted for radical career changes by buying and managing upmarket ski chalets in the French Alps. That meant there was something like seven months down-time each year until the snows returned – it sounds great but you get the impression the Shails aren’t the sort of people to sit on their hands for long.

A mixture of childhood holiday memories and the fact a close relative lived in Ambleside persuaded them to branch out into the Lakes where Rothay Manor was on the market for £2.4 million.

A dish at Rothay Manor Photo: Polly A Baldwin A dish at Rothay Manor Photo: Polly A Baldwin

They decided getting the dining experience bang on would be cornerstone of what they wanted to achieve. They were dead right. Refurbishment began with the two old dining rooms – one a nice space and the other a shade grim. Structural changes and some very classy décor resulted in the two rooms joining together to become the sophisticated light-filled focal point of the hotel. And this wasn’t a case of rich young things snapping their fingers and bringing in a squad of workmen – they rolled up their sleeves and spent many long nights painting and decorating.

A fine dining room needs a fine chef and Brandon fitted the bill. They knew him from France where he catered for people staying in the chalets. He also cut his teeth in Michelin-starred kitchens and had a reputation for creativity.

While a few traditional meat and two veg customers might have been put off by his take on modern British cuisine, there is now a new generation enjoying food that secured the Rothay Manor two AA rosettes within just five weeks of Brandon firing up the ovens.

Using a local butcher who hangs his lamb for three weeks and venison from Langdale, Brandon has created a menu that has the ability to surprise and delight in equal portions. He’s also in the process of creating his own kitchen garden.

Brandon Shepherd in the kitchen garden Photo: Polly A Baldwin Brandon Shepherd in the kitchen garden Photo: Polly A Baldwin

Starters of chicken oysters, black truffle, salsifywith granny smith apple and another of pork cheek with pancetta and the deep, earthy flavours of beetroot in various guises were plate-lickingly good.

Two mains – Ambleside hogget which combined loin, belly and shoulder ‘bolognaise’ and halibut with anchovy puree and fabulous fennel meringue were certainly enough to secure a third rosette on the spot. Desserts included a wonderfully theatrical chocolate dome with a sumptuous hit of cocoa.

As well as producing some sensational flavours, Brandon and his team – aided by some excellent, smiley service – produced dishes that were works of art. For once, style was matched by substance.

For residents, the public rooms are comfortable and well appointed and the night was spent in a beautiful garden room with an enormous bed with a high-end bathroom, excellent for relaxing after a hard day on the fells.

The Rothay Manor revival is great news for anyone heading to Ambleside seeking excellent food and luxurious surroundings. They also do a second menu for those who don’t want fine dining on consecutive nights and I’m told they also concoct a mean afternoon tea.

So, did I ask for the dripping with my breakfast toast? Dear reader, I’m sorry to say I thought of my cholesterol levels and confined myself to bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding….

Roger Borrell was a guest of Rothay Manor, Rothay Bridge, Ambleside. LA22 0EH. 015394 33605. www.rothaymanor.co.uk

More from Out & About

Fri, 00:00

This remarkable garden can whisk you on a horticulture tour of the world. Linda Viney took a trip

Read more
Mon, 19:39

A fantastic end to 2017 is in store at the annual equestrian event in the centre of Liverpool.

Read more
Mon, 19:38

John Lenehan heads for Gisburn to walk by the Ribble and sample the delights of the Auction Mart Cafe.

Read more

This busy community might sometimes feel like the village that time forgot, but it’s full of people who help themselves. Martin Pilkington reports

Read more
Silverdale
Monday, November 6, 2017

Follow our short guide to a festive trip to Lytham this Christmas.

Read more
Christmas
Monday, November 6, 2017

Windermere is dependent on tourism, but when the holidaymakers have left there remains a thriving village community

Read more
Windermere
Monday, November 6, 2017

The 218th Westmorland County Show welcomed HRH The Prince of Wales

Read more
Thursday, November 2, 2017

Is it a helicopter? Is it a plane? It’s neither. Or maybe both. Paul Mackenzie meets a man offering a unique bird’s eye view of the Lake District.

Read more
Lake District

It may only be a small town, but these home grown products are causing a big stir

Read more
Ormskirk
Wednesday, October 25, 2017

While conservation work is important globally, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust is stressing the need to think locally too. Alan Wright discusses the important of wildlife close to home.

Read more
Lancashire Wildlife
Monday, October 23, 2017

There are many reasons why the Forest of Bowland is designated Area of Natural Beauty, we’ve picked our favourite spots that we think you will love too.

Read more
Bowland
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The ‘Rural Oscars’ Are Back

Read more
Monday, October 16, 2017

It may not be the Serengeti but the stunning countryside around Nicky Nook will make a perfect location for eco-holidays. Roger Borrell reports.

Read more
Bowland Scorton
Saturday, October 14, 2017

Volunteers are restoring a lovely Victorian garden just a short stroll from a busy city centre. Linda Viney reports

Read more
Liverpool
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Lancashire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search