Short break - The Inn at Ravenglass
PUBLISHED: 16:51 15 May 2015 | UPDATED: 13:41 24 February 2016
Sue Riley winkles out a new place that is shellfish heaven thanks to a former Roux Brothers disciple
Pack a bib. That’s my advice if you’re planning to visit The Inn at Ravenglass to sample their shellfish menu. Now it may just have been me, but the langoustines, caught by fishermen in nearby Whitehaven and on my plate within an hour, were not only fresh they were also incredibly messy.
I’d seen that one of my fellow diners had popped his napkin into the top of his shirt and I had quietly smiled at his quirkiness. Then my langoustines in garlic butter arrived and my dry cleaning bill started to escalate. But who cares? When food is as fresh as this, a bit of shellfish juice doesn’t matter. Neither did the fact that I was so engrossed in my food I completely missed the sunset over the water where the rivers of the Esk, Irt and Mite meet. A nearby table of diners did exactly the same thing; the langoustines really were that good.
The Inn at Ravenglass is an unprepossessing sort of place, even a bit shabby from the outside. But once in there’s a range of good beers, a great little bar and a slightly separate eating area selling some of the freshest fish and shellfish in the county. The 17th century pub has been owned by the Pennington family (of Muncaster Castle) for decades but they took over the running of it just over a year ago, recruited chef Craig Niven (who’s worked for the Roux Brothers) and decided to specialise in shellfish.
Starters were priced at around the £7 mark for mussels, crevettes and langoustines, with mains including skate wing with beurre noisette, roast tomatoes and new potatoes at £17. There’s good beer but a limited wine list - we opted for the Picpoul at £17 a bottle. As you tuck into your scallops with parsnip puree though there’s always the reminder that you’re in a pub - with the noise from the bar and a bottle of Sarson’s vinegar on the table. Lively, down-to-earth pub manager Frazer North has a personality which is a perfect fit for the relaxed, unfussy setting. ‘We are a pub and we have got nice rooms and serve exceptionally nice food,’ he says.
They get all their shellfish and fish from Steve Hallett, of Ravenglass Fish & Game, who travels up and down the West Cumbrian coast sourcing produce for them, from Maryport and Whitehaven right down to Fleetwood Fish Market in Lancashire. This month lobsters will be in season, many caught in Ravenglass itself and langoustines will still be on the menu along with turbot, halibut, John Dory and black bream. ‘I have eaten in some top restaurants but the food here is second to none,’ says Steve, although he may be a tad biased.
Above the pub/restaurant are two suites which opened this spring. We stayed in the Master Suite with its three large windows overlooking the estuary where we watched the tide ebb and flow and admired the golden/purple hues of the landscape which are so particular to this part of Cumbria. There was an enormous bed, an even bigger bathroom with standalone bath, two sinks and shower with Thierry Mugler toiletries; sofas, armchairs, dining table, window seats, fresh flowers, fresh filter coffee, homemade biscuits and Prosecco. Call me a simple soul but the room with its subtle seaside colour scheme and attention to detail suited me down to the ground. It doesn’t come cheap at £250 a night for B&B (the smaller suite is £110 B&B) but it was a room we didn’t want to leave. So the next morning we accepted the offer of breakfast in our suite (the alternative is to walk a few metres down the road and have it at the Pennington Hotel) and ate it watching the tide come in and seagulls soar.
We’re planning a day trip to Ravenglass (on the train) next month so we can have more langoustines for lunch. We might even buy some from the pub’s wet fish shop (which is due to open this month) and use one of their free recipe cards so ensure we cook them perfectly. I wonder if they’ll be supplying free bibs too?
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
*Take a stroll down the main road to the small harbour and admire the sheer peace and quiet of this beautiful village. Incidentally, the road was laid out in medieval times and tapers at one end to prevent cattle escaping on market days
* Most people visit Ravenglass to experience La’al Ratty, a small steam train which takes visitors along a seven mile strack into Eskdale, terminating at Dalegarth Station near Boot. www.ravenglass-railway.co.uk
* Take a short walk to see the remains of the Roman Bath House and reflect that this tiny village was once one of the most important Roman ports in North West England. It was known as Glannaventa
* Pack your hiking boots and sample some of the best walking in the Lake District in Eskdale and Wasdale.
* Take a short drive to Wasdale Head and have a look at what is regularly voted the best view in the UK
* Visit Muncaster Castle, the ancestral seat of the Pennington family for more than 700 years. With a range of seasonal activities, gardens and regular ghost sightings this castle is one of the most strikingly situated in the Lakes. For entry fees and more information go to www.muncaster.co.uk