Short break - Linthwaite House, Windermere
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 November 2018
A massive refurbishment has been completed at a hotel much loved by Lancastrians. Roger borrell went to explore
For the last couple of decades, Linthwaite House has been a much-loved bolt-hole for Lancastrians looking for a little luxury in the Lake District.
Under the stewardship of Mike Bevans, the hotel built up a formidable reputation for food (it had three AA rosettes), excellent service and was generally regarded as one of THE places to spend a couple of days being waited on hand and foot. Even when the rain clattered down on the conservatory roof, a little sun seemed to shine through Linthwaite’s Edwardian windows.
So when the property was sold, regulars were a little apprehensive. The new owner, an Indian-born billionaire called Analjit Singh, is a very successful businessman with interests in areas such as insurance and healthcare but, more recently, he has moved into the super luxury hotel market with a company called the Leeu Collection.
It is based mainly in South Africa with big plans for international expansion and Linthwaite is his first foray into the UK market, presumably hoping to capture the zeitgeist of the Lake District’s World Heritage site status.
It wasn’t much of a surprise when it was announced the place was closing for a complete refurbishment – that’s what new owners with the wherewithal are expected to do. So we waited with bated breath, wondering whether they were going to ruin the old place. And we waited and we waited.
It’s probably fair to say that the work wasn’t without its hitches but now it’s finally open for business although some further developments are continuing across the 14 acres of grounds.
So have they ruined it? Emphatically not. The public rooms are outstanding with the walls decorated in Lake District hues and, from room to room, the furnishings range from duck egg blues to russets to equally fashionable greys. All very on trend. Beautifully quirky copper chandeliers continue the modern yet classic theme.
There’s also more than a passing nod to the South African roots of the business in much of the artwork. For example, the backs of the armchairs have fabric with striking tribal-style motifs.
I particularly liked two framed pieces – one an old sewing machine and the other a typewriter, items guaranteed to bring a nostalgic tear to the eye. Both looked like someone had placed a hand grenade in their gubbins and the metal components had been caught mid-blast. Bonkers but brilliant.
The hotel terrace, with wonderful views down to Lake Windermere, has been turned into a luxurious spot to soak up the sun, the comfortable furniture and enormous adjustable parasols designed so you don’t miss an inch of the glorious vista.
From here, you can spot some of the impressive sculptures that loom out from the landscape. Below the terrace is what looks like a giant Polo mint but is, no doubt, an accomplished piece of art.
Elsewhere, you can see a tiger striding through the undergrowth, a man whose head seems to have been turned to slate and a lion, which is the symbol of Leeu hotels. A lot of thought has gone into Linthwaite, inside and out. The 30 new bedrooms are sophisticated and extremely well-equipped. In my case too well equipped. For some reason, the helpful staff were convinced I’d brought a dog (the hotel is pet friendly). Once convinced that I hadn’t owned one since my boyhood, they removed the dog bed and bowl from my room. And then checked again the next morning to make sure my dog had enjoyed the stay.
The new restaurant, called Stella, is as smart as the rest of the hotel with blue banquettes and mustard dining chairs. However, this was the one area that didn’t work for me.
They have a very accomplished Indian born celebrity chef called Ritu Dalmia, although I believe she spends the majority of her time in Delhi. My palate may be jaded by the fact I live in a town with an Italian restaurant on every street corner but I couldn’t work out why they needed to bring a chef from Asia to cook Italian food in the Lakes.
A lot of it was quite well cooked but, frankly, a bit dull. This sophisticated room cries out for fine dining especially at a time when modern British cuisine is in the ascendancy. Putting Cumberland sausage meat in bland arancini balls may give a nod to local produce but it is not something that will live long in the memory.
I love the rustic, earthy flavours of well-made Italian food and the devil-may-care approach to pasta sauce down your tie. But that’s not what you’ll find here and I’m not sure it’s what I want in a luxury hotel. I’m tempted to ask if you would hire an Italian chef to create Indian cuisine?
A big plus is the bread – it deserves a gold star all of its own as do the breakfasts. You can have the full English, of course, but the rest of the menu is outstandingly inventive and beautifully prepared. It’s worth the visit just for that.
The new Linthwaite will eventually bed in and adopt a character of its own. A fresh band of loyal followers will emerge and comparisons with times past will fast fade. I’m happy to report the fabric of the place is better than ever and, according to social media, most guests think the food is fab. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one.
Is it worth getting a dog just to go back? Let me have a think about that.
Linthwaite House, Crook Rd, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere LA23 3JA