Short break - Castle Green Hotel, Kendal
PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 July 2015 | UPDATED: 13:39 24 February 2016
Rarely prone to exaggeration, Roger Borrell heads for Castle Green in Kendal and finds himself in a different time zone. Sort of
It’s probably stretching the truth a shade – and, yes I know, that’s something journalists are always reluctant to do – but if it wasn’t for the Castle Green Hotel, Kendal’s town centre might not have its iconic clock tower.
A wealthy ironmonger – and that’s not a phrase you hear much these days – built this magnificent house in the 1840s and left it to his son. The lad done well, as the football commentators say, and he was elected mayor of Kendal six times. When he handed in his chain of office for the last time he willed the property to the borough.
Apparently, the good burghers displayed their gratitude by swiftly flogging it and used the cash to add some bling to the town hall. The loose change went to build the clock tower that now dominates Westmorland’s ‘auld grey’ town. So, that’s how the town hall got its tower.
But enough history. For the present is what interests us at Castle Green, which was developed from an office complex into a hotel by James and Catherine Alexander in the late 1990s. They’ve been upgrading, embellishing and expanding the place ever since.
Over the years, they have developed the stables into Alexander’s pub serving proper beer and good food, there’s the Pulse health and fitness club with its own pool and gym and the Green Rooms Spa offering a range of aromatherapy treatments.
The latest change has come at the core of this privately-owned Best Western hotel - the Greenhouse Restaurant and the adjoining lounge and bar. It’s quite an eye-opener when you enter what looks every inch a traditional Lakeland hotel and find yourself surrounded by big city chic.
Around £250,000 has been spent on the new style which those who know about interiors inform me ‘uses an earthy palette with fruity accents’. This might sound like a night out with Graham Norton but it’s not a bad description of Castle Green’s ground floor.
The designers have thankfully eschewed the ubiquitous Lakeland slate and used contemporary colours, bright banquettes and striking artwork. Burnt orange, plum, raspberry, duck egg and cream may sound like ingredients for Heston Blumenthal’s recreation of a medieval posset but it actually forms a dramatic combination of hues for walls, furnishings and fittings. A bespoke carpet has leaf fronds that guide you into the dining room, which has a conservatory area with views over the 14 acres of pretty gardens. It all looks very smart indeed.
Such a grand stage deserves an accomplished cast and executive head chef Justin Woods and the team didn’t fluff their lines the night I went. The service is friendly and informative without being overbearing and the food more than merits its double AA rosette rating.
The £45 five course tasting menu displayed confident, modern culinary skills leaning heavily on ingredients that are mainly sourced on the doorstep. The smoked salmon comes from the Cartmel Valley and combines deliciously with hot smoked salmon rillettes, beetroot and horseradish.
This is followed by melt-in-the-mouth pork belly and then the main course of loin and shoulder of Cumbrian lamb makes the journey worthwhile however far you’ve come.
The board of local cheeses is a revelation – I didn’t know there was such variety – and the dessert is a homage to local delicacies such as sticky toffee pudding, damsons, gingerbread and Kendal mint cake. It’s clear Mr Wood encourages his team to use their flair and imagination.
After a dinner like that you need somewhere to relax and our executive room had a large, comfortable sofa, an extremely swish bathroom and the four poster was so big we found ourselves in different time zones. OK, I made that bit up but the rest is the gospel. Trust me, I’m a journalist. w
Castle Green Hotel, Castle Green Lane, Kendal, LA9 6RG, 01539 734000. www.castlegreen.co.uk